Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey is a musical journey through the centuries of guitar playing in India. Using three unique guitars that BBC award winner Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya designed himself, each beautiful raga explores influences ranging from Gypsy to Sufi with deep sensitivity and free-flowing movement between past and present, tradition and innovation.
Debashish Bhattacharya is an old hand at combining spirituality with outside-the-box adventuring and impish humor. For his ninth album released in the West, Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey
, he eschews outside collaborations but nonetheless pursues a multi-cultural agenda. The opening track, "Sufi Bhakti" merges two devotional paths, revealing each while slighting neither. Played upon anandi
, a small slide ukulele invented by Bhattacharya, and flanked by Indian harp, tabla
drums and a one stringed ektara
, the piece has an Islamic flavor punctuated by pauses like polite bows. The title of "Gypsy Anandi" seems to refer less to Roma
musical traditions than to their nomadic tendencies. The track, while constructed over a foundation of Indian raga
, also encompasses Hawaiian and Afro-Andalucian influences. But on "Kolkata To Kanyakumari," a tribute to the philosopher Swami Vivekenanda (with whom Bhattacharya shares a birthday), he's back in the ancestral fold, combining aspects of North Indian and sacred Carnactic themes. As usual, Bhattacharya's flawless technique, astonishing as it is, takes a backseat to his inspired improvisations. Each tune unfolds in an urgent yet unrushed manner, revealing skeins of drone-laced song energized by ardent emotion and refined by uncountable generations of soul-deep musical intellect. --Christina Roden