Lucid Culture


CD Review: Debashish Bhattacharya – O Shakuntala!

Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the world’s most extraordinary and innovative slide guitarists. Since the 1990s he’s fused influences from all over India as well as the west, creating a style which is both hypnotic and fiery. Bhattacharya continues to push the envelope: it would not be hyperbole to mention him alongside Ravi Shankar. This new cd follows the arc of an ancient Sanskrit love epic, Bhattacharya playing three self-designed slide guitars and accompanied by three percussionists, Chitrangana Agle Reshwal and Charu Hariharan as well as his brother Subhasis. A blend of trancelike Hindustani sounds, southern ragas and an incisive, western-influenced melodicism, Bhattacharya’s guitars ring and reverberate, often in the style of a sitar. As fast a player as he can be, most of the songs here are warmly contemplative, often plaintive.

Basically, this a love story interrupted: king marries a beautiful woman, they separate but happily reunite at the end. Most of the instrumentals here are long, clocking in at seven minutes or more. Bhattacharya swoops and dives to the lowest registers, then hangs on insistent, anguished phrases, hammering them home for all they’re worth. The individual tracks vividly illustrate the storyline: their bouncy, optimistic central theme; the courtship cast as a stately march; the stormy fire of the marriage ceremony, the pensive evocation of their time apart and their reunion, surprisingly lush and peaceful. When he’s not providing jangly, clanging ambience, Bhattacharya ornaments the melodies with a variety of attacks from wild sitar-inflected lines to some pretty, pointillistic playing that wouldn’t be out of place in bluegrass. The polyrhythms enhance the otherworldliness of much of the album. Cutting-edge yet with an ancient feel, it’s another triumph for Bhattacharya: having won the BBC World Music Award in 2007 and a Grammy nomination last year, he’s having trouble doing anything wrong right now. The album is out in the US right now, due out in the UK on July 13.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment