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Composing a groove

CATHERINE RHEA ROY
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MUSIC Pretty late in his career Bickram Ghosh introspected on his own music and thus was born the sound of Rhythmscape, now celebrating its 10th year

New sounds new worlds Bickram Ghosh PHOTO: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
New sounds new worlds Bickram Ghosh PHOTO: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

T he son of Pandit Shankar Ghosh, one of the first professional tabla players from Bengal and Sanjukta Ghosh, a Hindustani classical singer, Bickram Ghosh was born with the baggage of heritage. Like he says, “For me music was never an option, it was reality.”

Growing up in Calcutta, Bickram's life was a juxtaposition of a yuppie school education and a family that was rooted in tradition and culture. “It is really this juxtaposition that led me into creating fusion music. School influenced me to listen to Beegees, Beatles, Rolling Stones and in those days even Osibisa, and I would come home to singing lessons with my mother, and tabla with my father.”

Bickram's introspection with music came very late — he had started his career as a musician and had been around the globe playing at all the biggest halls. “I was 32 years old when I asked myself if I was actually a tabla player. Until then I had never questioned it and suddenly I was not so sure. And this was so potent that I stopped playing for a while. I needed to understand who I was, and that's when it occurred to me that there is nobody else I can be, except a musician. But my calling was to make music that was different — that was when I started making fusion music. This was also the early days of fusion music.”

A time when the concept of World Music had not yet caught on, Bickram with his band Rhythmscape, created history and today they celebrate ten years of being together. “I am happy I had doubt, because this is what came out of it. A form of music that is close to me and is reflective of my up-bringing, I found a space where the two forms blended,” says Bickram.

Bickram has also created music for films, although he says it is something he never thought he would get into, “I was fascinated by R.D. Burman and Madan Mohan, but never thought I would work for films, but you cannot really control what happens to you. I have made music for several Bengali films and even ones in Hindi. And most of this work comes to me because of my collaboration with Rhythmscape. It happened out of the blue. I love composing, but it was never a priority.”

Bickram acknowledges that his music is his own way of taking classical music out to the people, and tell them that it is not necessarily intimidating. He says, “The kind of fusion I do is in an effort to include a larger audience. When I was playing some of the biggest concerts in my life, none of my friends would come, saying that they could not understand it. The reason is that classical music operates on taal, which you count. I have just reconstructed it on the basis of groove. I try to offer them classical music within a certain framework and in a language they can relate to.”

Rhythmscape is in its tenth year, and the band has been travelling the country performing a series of celebratory gigs.

Their music is a mish-mash of different cultures, and has set its own trend now. “It has grown very slowly, but it is now on a high that even I haven't seen before. It is more edgy and experimental, and I am always pushing the line,” says Bickram.

CATHERINE RHEA ROY

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