Fave5 with Debashish Bhattacharya
Debashish Bhattacharya is a musical inventor.
The Kolkata, India-born instrumentalist got his start at the age of three with the Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and by the time he reached four he had appeared on All Indian Radio in his home city. However, mastering existing musical instruments was not enough for this prodigy. When Bhattacharya was 15, he designed a 24-string instrument called the Chaturangui, which is a cross between a slide guitar and sitar. Combined with his other two inventions – the 14-string Gandharvi, and four-string lap ukulele, the Anandi (named after his daughter) – Bhattacharya formed his “Trinity of Guitars.”
During his five decades as a musician, Bhattacharya has performed more than 3,000 concerts around the world, released two-dozen albums, and is regarded as a master of musical fusion. And he is nowhere near done pushing his own creative boundaries. “I have invented my fourth instrument,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s called the pushpaveena which has 25 strings and I produced it in the pandemic.”
Bhattacharya also “produced many online fundraising concerts for young artists so that music and musicians can survive” during the pandemic. He has no preference between playing stages at festivals or individual concerts. “For me, stage matters. It doesn’t matter if it is an open air festival or a closed door concert venue – stage matters. If I play for God or I play for people, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same.”
When asked to name five favourite festivals where he has performed, it was no surprise that his response reflected the breadth of his experience playing thousands of stages globally – and that his broad choices reflected more than just five individual festivals.
I have played five WOMAD festivals: WOMAD London, WOMAD Abu Dhabi, WOMAD Adelaide, WOMAN Singapore. Four, actually. The fifth time, we’re going to play in South Africa. WOMAD is one of the biggest festivals. I really like WOMAD festivals.
Adelaide Guitar Festival
I’ve played Adelaide WOMAD, but also the Adelaide Guitar Festival that I really liked.
BBC World Music Awards
I also really liked the festival made by the BBC. In 2007, I got a BBC Award in World Music. There was a huge festival in the Barbican Theatre that was amazing.
Summer Festivals in France
I also would like to mention all of the French summer festivals I have performed. Every summer festival you can name in France. There is a summer festival down in Saint-Nazaire [Festival Les Escales]. It’s in the down south where, during the Second World War, French people made, on the ocean, they made bunkers so the festival is being done in the shipping area inside the bunker, on top of the bunker – amazing!
Dover Lane Music Conference (Kolkata, India)
One of the biggest Indian classical music festivals in the world. It is one of my favourites, and also the Darbar Festival in London.