Bickram Ghosh's performance was a delicate balancing act

Bickram Ghosh's mega-percussion ensemble Rhythmscape showcased an exquisite multi-layered rhythmic set at the Taj Residency recently. The promotional tour of their latest release Beyond Rhythmscape was also part of the Taj Business Celebrations Series launched last year.Bickram's constant emphasis on the importance of luring wider audience into Indian classical without compromising was evident right through. They invariably took on an infectious lilting groove even while, for the most part, adhering to the basic traditional entities. With Sanjoy Das on the guitar and Bickram on the tabla taking the lead, the ensemble opened the concert with "The dance of Shiva" in raag Jog set to Adi taal. "The Awakening", taken from their latest album opened with a balmy far-away guitar lulling the audience but quickly changed into a sprightly piece as the percussion accompanists took over with an assortment of sounds.Ambarish Das's vocals stood out in the romantic ballad "Saajana", performed in three raags: Nand, Pahadi and Maand. The piece also drew attention to the subtle variations in Indian percussion that could be just as impressive even if not as exciting as on the fast runs. "Zinc" was a jazz rendition that Bickram picked up from a jazz bar in New York. Performing it in Megh raag, the ensemble stuck to the classical realm for a while before venturing into lengthy improvisations. V. Suresh on the ghatam, Pulak Sarkar on the keyboards and the tabla were all a standout in this piece. Chiradeep Lahiri on the western drum kit, and Gopal Barman on the shreekhol particularly stood out in their exchanges with the tabla and ghatam towards the end. The ensemble closed with "Rhythmspeak", their rendition of Pandit Ravi Shankar's Banjara raag.At the end of the hour-long performance although one was left craving for more, there was a feeling that the ensemble's exchanges promised more than they delivered. Barring the tabla-guitar and tabla-ghatam duets, the members' individual virtuosity outshone their musical interaction, apparent only in a few pieces. Nevertheless, Bickram's interaction with the audience — be it through his famous mouth percussion and slap techniques, or the national anthem on the kanjira, or his delightful variations on the tabla that propelled the sound of Rhythmscape — was simply remarkable. He showed just why he is one of the top exponents of Indian music.B.M.V.