Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya’s santoor style is highly distinctive, borrowing from the melodic inclinations of many other instruments. In his youth he learned guitar, piano, organ, sitar, and tabla with Rabi, his father, and Dulal Roy, master of the jaltarang (tuned water bowls).
Despite obvious talent he did not take to music instantly, but his perspective changed after his first public performance as a child: “The audience appreciated my performance and as a token of appreciation, I was rewarded with chocolates. I liked the gesture of gratitude...From that day onwards, I started training sincerely”.
He devoted himself to his art fully after completing a degree in Commerce and entering the world of professional work, aided by a chance meeting with Pandit Ravi Shankar in a studio. He describes the encounter: “I requested to play my santoor specially for him, to which he readily agreed. We decided on a specific date and time".
"Unfortunately...I was late by 20 minutes for the meeting. My tardiness infuriated him and he expressed his unwillingness to listen to my santoor anymore. However, after a some pleading and persuasion, I finally managed to convince him...After the session concluded, Pandit Ravi Shankar was very impressed and accepted me into his fold”.
They commenced a long association, working hard to adapt the intricacies of the Maihar gharana’s sitar style to the santoor’s more rigid framework: “Pandit-ji taught me the intricacies of the raga, how to make mathematical calculations with rhythmic cycles and so on. He would teach with the sitar and I would try it out”.
Tarun also studied with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma for a time, and later modified his instrument, thickening the strings for a deeper tone, adding a string which can be bent, and adding mankas - fine tuners which allow for easier switching between ragas. Today he tours the world as well as teaching students for free at his Santoor Ashram in Kolkata, and is renowned for focusing on ethical issues outside music.
"I cannot shut eyes and remain unaware of the social issues, however painful. This pain hampers creativity; yet this is also true that this pain pushes me to think hard and create as well."
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