Bickram Ghosh invokes a variety of styles on the tabla
Bickram Ghosh can be traditional and experimental, classical and contemporary. The unexpected, complex rhythm patterns fused with a stamp of melody is perhaps what makes him one of the most sought after tabla players in the circuit.
Bickram has collaborated with some of the biggest names in world music, from George Harrison to Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain to Pete Lockett, from Karaikudi Mani to Kadri Gopalnath. He has more than a dozen best-selling solo albums, has composed music for films and numerous collaborative works to his credit.
Trained by his father Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Bickram has also picked up the art of Carnatic percussion from S. Sekhar. His ten years with Pandit Ravi Shankar honed his skills as a percussionist.
Ahead of his solo performance ‘Indian Strokes' at JTPac on June 15, Bickram, in a telephonic chat with The Hindu MetroPlus, spoke about his association with South Indian percussion, his band Rhythmscape and his brand of music.
South India in general and Kerala in particular has a well-marked percussion tradition. Bickram's music has this strong South Indian flavour, which he has managed to blend ingeniously into his playing. “I have played extensively in the South and a lot with some of the great percussionists of the region. I, along with Karaikudi Mani (mridangam) and Harishankar (ganjira), formed a trio in the early 90s. Later I have played with so many Carnatic musicians. My association with Kerala began with a performance in Palakkad again in the 90s. Since then, I have performed quite a few times in the State,” he says.
One of the performances that still sticks in Bickram's memory is the New Year Day concert at the Music Academy, Chennai. “I think that was in 2009. That concert had Mattannur Sankarankutty on the chenda. That was a wonderful experience.” The concert ‘Panchavadyam' had apart from Bickram and Mattannur Sankarankutty, Karaikudi Mani, Ravishankar Upadhyay (pakhawaj), and T. G. Muthu Kumaraswami (thavil).
One musician that Bickram enjoyed playing with was Pandit Ravi Shankar. “Quite natural because I must have played the tabla for him in almost 1,000 concerts. But I have also enjoyed playing with Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, Kadri Gopalnath… See, I have always enjoyed my concerts.”
Even after all these years, so many albums later, Bickram's Rhythmscape still features in the charts. His band with the same name is also a huge hit. “There are trends in music but sometimes you have music pieces that defy these trends and linger. Maybe Rhythmscape is something like that,” he says. The attempt in the album was to use the prevailing trends and incorporate them to express eternal emotions. “This is what happens when melody and rhythm is fused in infinity. It might not be technically superior to what I created later. But there was a freshness of energy in Rhythmscape; the ideation was so different,” Bickram adds.
Rhythmscape the band is a new age fusion outfit that has been around for nearly seven years. “The band has all kind of elements with a strong rhythm side to it. It is basically an Indian new age band. Though the rhythm part of the band is strong, we have given it a solid melodic element.”
For the ‘Indian Strokes' concert, Bickram will be playing solo. “This will be a purely classical concert with only the harmonium as backup. Usually when I'm performing solo, I perform rhythmic pieces by other composers and also my own compositions. It gives me room for great variation and improvisation,” he concludes.