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.