Debashish Bhattacharya – Beyond the Ragasphere (Riverboat/ Fuse)

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Typically, you could expect to hear it in Hawaiian music or perhaps country music, but from the early-‘90s Indian lap steel guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya has been using new tools to come to terms with Indian classical music. To do so he’s actually invented his own slide guitars, three instruments that he refers to as the trinity.

His sound echoes that of the sitar, crafting incredible lush ragas over elongated notes, typically accompanied by a tabla and the drone of the tanpura. Yet there’s something more, and it was hinted at on 2008’s Calcutta Chronicles, which touched on flamenco, Hawaiian, even Americana finger picking. At that time he referenced these influences via his own unique style, on Beyond The Ragaspere he’s invited a few friends along and this has pushed his music into newer, more fusion-esque realms.

We’ve got a drum kit alongside the tabla, electric bass guitar alongside his acoustic guitar, and it’s quite a subtle form of fusion that doesn’t really draw attention to itself until you listen intently. That’s despite the fact that the drums come from jazz-funk percussionist Jeff Sipe. His guitar-related guests are a little more overt however: electric jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, bluegrass dobro player Jerry Douglas and flamenco guitarist Adam Del Monte all leaving a piece of themselves in the mix. Bhattacharya however demonstrates his mastery by making it all fit, adapting his approach with each cultural exchange.

Beyond The Ragasphere is truly beautiful and complex music. It’s the work of an artist whose use of unconventional instrumentation in a traditional form has created an entirely new approach to Indian classical music; however, that was only the beginning. Now he wants to create a new tradition.

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