A list of collaborations that includes the who’s who of the musical world hasn’t satiated tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh’s appetite, he tells Renuka Vijay Kumar
A thousand and more performances with Pandit Ravi Shankar, an album with George Harrison, another one with Russian conductor, musician and Grammy winner Mstilav Rostropovich and one with famous French band Mezcal Jazz Unit thrown in for good measure and you’ll quickly realise why it’s so difficult to slot tabla player Bickram Ghosh as an artiste of one specific genre. Performing live, action, recording albums or directing music for movies- there’s nothing that Bickram hasn’t dabbled in.
He’s played the world over, sharing centre stage with the who’s who in the field on music and an association with Pandit Ravi Shankar that probably has most musicians seething with envy. Bickram was once performing at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Belgium where Pandit Ravi Shankar came to watch. “He congratulated every musician there except me. I then got a call at midnight saying that he wanted to meet me and when I did, Raviji said ‘Yours was one of the finest tabla performances I have heard. I’m playing tomorrow, would you like to join me?’
And join he did! What followed was an immediate booking for 40 concerts and a thousand odd concerts later on. Bickram’s musical journey has only sky rocketed since his association with Pandit Ravi Shankar but since the last few years, he has accompanied him less. “But he is still the most challenging musician to play with,” he says
But he did play on Full Circle, the Grammy award winning album of Ravi Shankar and followed it up with Anoushka Shankar’s Grammy nominated album. And then there’s a little thing he did that he wished he hadn’t! He collaborated with Norah Jones on her debut album Come Away with Me but later asked her to remove his composition from the album. “I asked Norah to take off my bit since I thought it sounded horrible. And then it went on to become a super success and win all those Grammy’s,” he says in mock despair!
Bickram’s venture with George Harrison on the album Brainwashed is also special to him, adding to list of association with the musical greats of the world. “He has seen me play with Raviji and one day called and said, ‘I’m working on a album after 27 years and would like you to be part of it.’ I got called to his castle at Henley-on-Thames, spent an entire day recording with him.”
Contemporary musicians Yodi Levy of Israel and Khaled Kouen also got him to play on their albums. “When you perform at various venues the world over, well known musicians from that city come to watch and when they ask to collaborate with you, you don’t want to say no to the best there is!”