The man known for his exceptional Tabla skills is also one of the pioneers of Neo-classical fusion. Bickram Ghosh – a master weaver of musical tales has recently released ‘Maya’ on Sony Music that celebrates Ravi Shankar and his legacy of peace through music. Using Hindu philosophy’s concept of Maya – the irresistible veil behind which the world conceals the real character of spiritual reality, it is an ode to the beauty of this illusion.
Excerpts from an interview:
You are known for your experiments with music and you also dabble in a vast repertoire of musical genres, from classical, rock, new-age, fusion to film music. Which is your favourite genre among them and why?
It’s difficult to talk about a favourite genre. The fact that one has dabbled in diverse genres shows that there is a desired quotient for each genre. If you ask me which is my core quotient, then that is classical music, since I started my career as a classical Tabla player. Then I shifted to fusion in the early 2000s, and more recently film composer which is also becoming broader every day. All the genres are done simultaneously, I’m involved in all three right now. I’m happy that I have the opportunity to travel these worlds.
What other instruments are you comfortable playing?
Tabla is my main instrument. That is what I play best and am known for. I’m currently endorsing a German percussion company Mienl Percussion. I consider myself mainly a table player but I also play the Cajon, and Kanjira among some other percussion instruments. I’m also known for my body drumming. I could dabble in pretty much any percussion instruments that I’m given.
What are your views on the use of old songs as covers in the current music industry?
Actually, I’m not a big fan of those. I do like the rendition in some of them but I don’t like the concept of an old song being used in remakes. It happened a lot in the 90s and 2000s also, but I don’t feel very great about that. I’m sure that composers can create great melodies even today. I don’t understand the idea of having to rehash the melodies of the past. But of course, it says a lot about the melodies of the past. The songs are so strong and wonderful that even today when one listens to those songs they are influenced by them. There are some radio channels which are dedicated to the songs of the 60s and 70s, they play only old songs.
It means that the melodies which were created at that era are so strong and they still sustain. In this era, there are of course composers who could deliver beautiful melodies, I don’t understand why they have to depend on the older songs. It’s a fact that not many great melodies are happening today. The number of great melodies happening now is far outnumbered by what happened back in the 60s and 70s. We should move away from rehashing and revamping old melodies, and focus more on creating new songs.
Any memorable incidents with Pt Ravi Shankar?
The first that comes to mind is the time when I played my first concert with him. I had gone to Brussels, Belgium to play at a concert where Raviji heard me for the first time. That very day, past midnight he called me and said, “I have heard some good Tabla after a long time” and he invited me to play with him at one of the greatest auditoriums there. We performed the next day. It was like magic, and also one of the moments in life when you pinch yourself to wonder whether it’s actually true. That’s how it started, and then we played for the next 11 years. There were some great fun moments with him as he could talk about anything under the sun. That’s one of the things I enjoyed the most about him.
Please tell us a little about your new album ‘Maya’.
‘Maya’ is a dedication to Raviji. I’ve been influenced by him on so many levels – by his sitar, his compositional work, that hearing all his work and being with him for so many years, I wanted to do an album which showcased what I have acquired from him as a composer.
Why did you name the album ‘Maya’?
I named it ‘Maya’ because I believe in the fact that this world is a world of ‘maya’. What we see is an illusion and that there is much more behind it. All the numbers on the album address various aspects of life, relations, youth, ageing – which together constitute ‘Maya’. The sound is based on classical music, my forte, but it’s a new age sound. The album features several Grammy winners and celebrated artists from around the globe. It’s a magnum opus projects dedicated to Raviji, and I believe that this is one of my best albums. It’s my personal favourite. Whoever has heard it has loved the meditativeness in the project. ‘Maya’ is meditating on life.
How was the experience working with Sonu Nigam in ‘Jal’?
Since ‘Jal’, we have worked on several other projects. We are great friends and meet often. Girish Malik, (director of ‘Jal’) gave us an idea of what he wanted, then Sonu bhai and I composed the highly diverse songs, (from Indian classical to an English song). Sonu and I have a great chemistry. We believe in similar philosophies in life. The sound that we create together, as a duo is called ‘Muddy electronica’.
Could you share some information about your upcoming projects?
There’s a whole bunch of them coming up. As a Tabla player, I’m doing a lot of shows, a major one would be in Varanasi this month. On the album front, I’ll be doing an album titled ‘Massive percussion jam’ and there’s a project with Sonu on retro songs. I also have a collaboration with Spanish singer María del Mar Fernández. which we’ll release very soon.
I’m currently composing for two Hindi films – ‘Band of Maharajas’, (also acting in it), and a film of Harsh Chhaya. In Bengal, ‘Durga Sohay’, and two films by Suman Ghosh – ‘Mi Amor’ and an untitled venture. There are too many things happening right now, and I’m actually enjoying this phase.