Percussion pundit

Experimental After composing music for Bengali films, Bickram Ghosh is set to make an impact in Bollywood

Experimental After composing music for Bengali films, Bickram Ghosh is set to make an impact in Bollywood   | Photo Credit: Photo: Murali Kumar k.

Tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh talks about his style of music

Be it during his concert, before or after it, tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh comes across as an unfussy and chatty person. He likes to interact with his audiences constantly to ensure they are in the groove, be it through occasional glances, quick comments or that affable smile. Even when he explains his music, he does it without throwing in any overwhelming jargon.

In his latest album One, produced by Saregama, Bickram has collaborated with the French jazz group Mezcal Jazz Unit to create a seamless union of European jazz and Indian classical music.

He cannot conceal his excitement. “A common friend, who heard my band Rhythmscape perform, suggested that we work with Mezcal for an album.

Since they are based in France, we first exchanged CDs to understand each other’s music and then went ahead,” elaborates the musician who recently performed at The Park, along with Mezcal, to promote the album.

It was Mezcal’s manager, Elizabeth, who coordinated with Alliance Francaise to bring the band to India for a four-city tour in 2006.

“We got together for an art residency workshop in Kolkata before the tour, and lived together for 10 days to understand each other and create music for the album. The biggest issue was the language.”

Except for the bass guitarist and composer, Emmanuel, none of the other members could speak English. “And I cannot speak French to save my life, so it was their manager who translated everything,” he adds.

It took two years before One was finally launched this month in Kolkata. “Both bands were touring extensively, as a result the editing took time,” reasons Bickram. The album is Bickram’s third in the last three months, and will be followed by another five in the next eight months.

Is he mass producing music? He denies it. “I don’t hurry with my music. It is just that I have too many new things to say every time.”

Honest music, he says, is never created instinctively. “I believe that we need to share bread with a culture to really understand it, before working on their music. I cannot just come together with a band and jump into recording immediately.”

So, be it working with George Harrison or with Anoushka Shankar in the Grammy nominated Rise, Bickram has taken efforts to know the other person’s mindset and lifestyle.

“I am glad I got to interact on a personal level with some great musicians. Even when I was working on my album Folktail, with Bengali Baul artistes, I actually stayed with the singer’s family to understand their philosophy,” he cites an example.

As son of the illustrious tabla player Shankar Ghosh, Bickram started out as a pure classical musician and played with the likes of Pandit Ravi Shankar, M. Balamuralikrishna, Kadri Gopalnath, Amjad Ali Khan and T.N. Krishnan for over a decade.

That is till he discovered his calling in experimental music. “Not everything I want to say can be said through classical music. I need other avenues. For example, being a post graduate in literature, I am very inspired by different periods. If it is 19th Century literature, I like to go back to the period and find out what the culture was like then, what instruments they used and add it to my music.

Classical music will remain my strong point. Whenever I feel challenged as a musician or I have a doubt, I replay upon my classical knowledge.”

If his eight-year-old fusion band Rhythmscape is one way of unleashing his creativity, his film music is another avenue. Having scored hits with Bengali films like “Hothat Neerar Jonnyo” and “Iti Srikanto”, Bickram is set to make an impact in Bollywood.

“I have just composed for ‘Little Zizou’, directed by Sooni Taraporevala. The music is acoustic-based, and very non-Bollywood kind. I will also compose music for Amitabh Neil Ray’s ‘Charu’, which is inspired by Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’,” says Bickram who has also acted in a couple of Bengali films.


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