Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Fri Jul 18
On the second evening of the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, the audience members – many already completely suffused by the seemingly limitless potential of the guitar – gather in anticipation of yet another treat. Debashish Bhattacharya, the supremely talented Indian classical musician and innovator of instruments, is set to perform in Adelaide for the very first time.
Debashish Bhattacharya, a master of his craft for the best part of half a century, takes his place on stage, accompanied by his daughter Anandi Bhattacharya and tabla player Subhasis Bhattacharjee. He welcomes the audience and speaks a little of his hope that music can be a positive force in the world, replacing and alleviating some of the negative aspects of human existence.
The hour and a half performance begins with two pieces showcasing the vocal talents of Anandi Bhattacharya. Her voice is a beautiful instrument, soaring and plummeting impressively, and remains the focal point of the songs. Debashish Bhattacharya only needs to provide the gentlest of accompaniments as he warms to the task.
The concert continues with Debashish Bhattacharya celebrating his love of guitars, as well as his love and hope for humanity, as he uses a range of his instruments to perform an impressive selection of Indian raga music. Throughout the performance he shares stories of his history, his musical upbringing, and life in India. Most pieces start in a fairly relaxed, gentle manner before building to a sumptuous, frantic climax. It is a wonderful experience for the listener.
Debashish Bhattacharya plays the 14-stringed gandharvi, a lap-slide chaturangui and a modified Gibson Super 400 as he moves from piece to piece, describing his association with each instrument. Bhattacharjee’s tabla playing is sublime, and the interplay between the performers is, at times, breathtaking.
The performance concludes with a piece featuring Debashish Bhattacharya’s latest innovation; the four-string ukulele-like Anandi. This instrument is named after his daughter, who rejoins the music with another beautiful vocal display, bringing to a close what has been a most enjoyable concert.
by David Robinson