The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Tablananda Sub­ha­sis Bhat­tacharya River­boat/Planet With Tablananda, Sub­ha­sis Bhat­tacharya gets a well-mer­ited turn in the spot­light, hav­ing hith­erto played sec­ond fid­dle to a high-fly­ing brother. For his in­ter­na­tional de­but this vir­tu­oso of tabla, the dis­tinc­tive-sound­ing hand drums that are the pulse of In­dian tra­di­tional mu­sic, has not only roped in said sib­ling — In­dia’s fore­most slide gui­tarist, De­bashish Bhat­tacharya, whom he has ac­com­pa­nied on many record­ing ses­sions — and other guests from the sub­con­ti­nent but also a crack Cal­i­for­nian back­ing crew.

In­deed, the per­cus­sion­ist, singer and com­poser’s com­ing-out al­bum was recorded in the Santa Cruz stu­dio of Daniel Shane Thomas, an ac­com­plished multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist and pro­ducer who lends com­pat­i­ble sup­port on a range of stringed instruments and key­boards in the more fu­sion-an­gled tracks. But the her­itage-ori­ented works fo­cus­ing on Bhat­tacharya’s tabla play­ing and singing com­mand most at­ten­tion.

An early ex­am­ple is Kr­ishna Naam, a track that fea­tures the artist in har­mony with the sub­lime bansuri flute play­ing of Soumya­jy­oti Ghosh on a blend of Bangladesh and West Ben­gal in­flu­ences. On De­scen­dants, his daz­zling tabla fig­ures echo the haunt­ing high-pitched bowed multi-strings of Alla Rakha Kalawant’s sarangi. In an­other stan­dard, Ma­hamantra, over an am­bi­ent bed, his Hindu chants and cer­e­mo­nial drum mo­tifs plumb tran­scen­den­tal depths. A later per­cus­sion duet has Bhat­tacharya’s tabla mes­meris­ingly in har­ness with wa­ter-filled ghatam. The al­bum opens with the Bhat­tacharya broth­ers in tan­dem on a co-com­po­si­tion that fuses East and West.

Some of the more ex­pan­sive and eclec­tic tracks such as Rubaiyat Blues — an at­tempt to fuse North African rhythm and Per­sian and Ara­bic-based singing with a 13th-cen­tury de­vo­tional poem — and the polyrhyth­mic In­dian-Afrobeat amal­gam Oye Adamu are per­haps overly am­bi­tious.

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