Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya is both a radical and a traditionalist. Like many Hindustani stars, he was born into a long cultural lineage. He traces his family back through 76 generations of artists, writers, and Sanskrit teachers, and represents the seventh in a straight line of musicians. He established himself early, debuting on All India Radio at the age of four, winning competitions at seven, and inventing his first slide guitar at fifteen.
But his path has never been a straightforward one. He was denied a prestigious classical scholarship on the grounds that he didn’t play a traditional instrument, and just as his career was taking off he left his home in Kolkata to study with the late guitar pioneer Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra. The intense apprenticeship lasted for ten years, giving him the grounding he needed to further the art of Hindustani slide playing.
Today, his style draws on a multitude of influences. Apart from his deep study with Kabra, he learned sitar, sarod, and vocal music in his youth, as well as picking up Hawaiian and European influences. He plays a self-designed ‘Trinity of Guitars’ - the chaturangui, a 23-string amalgamation of sitar, sarod, violin, and rudra veena, the gandharvi, which blends the 12-string guitar with veena, santoor, and sarangi, and the anandi, a 4-string slide ukulele.
Debashish continues to tour the world, garnering a Grammy nomination in 2009 and taking the intricate ornamentations of Hindustani music to new ears. Read more about his chaturangi (and other curious Indian instruments) in our article Singing Sculptures.
"Imperfection is your walk in the path of perfection. This is a lifelong journey, which will eventually end with you and start with someone else."
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