You've probably never seen or heard an instrument like this. The Hindustani slide guitar is the creation of Debashish Bhattacharya, whose creation pairs his first love — a Hawaiian lap steel guitar, a gift from his father when he was only 3 — and the sounds of India. You can see the similarities to a lap steel guitar, as Bhattacharya lays the guitar across his legs, sliding a metal bar to create the fluid, almost vocal melodies. The additional strings (and lack of frets) allow him to slide easily between notes, in the process creating a sound that resonates and drones while remaining attuned to his Calcutta home.
His music incorporates a good deal of North Indian (Hindustani) classical music, but you can also hear the blues pouring out from this stunning creation. I first met Bhattacharya 17 years ago when he was touring with other great slide guitarists, Bob Brozman and Martin Simpson. In those 17 years, his music has become even more astonishing, and his instrument refined even further. This trio includes his daughter (Anandi Bhattacharya) on vocals and his brother (Subhasis Bhattacharjee) on tabla.
The current album and some of what's played here today can be found on two different records, the first with guitarist John McLaughlin and Dobro master Jerry Douglas (titled Beyond the Ragasphere) and the second with his brother and daughter (titled Madeira: If Music Could Intoxicate). These are brilliant recordings — and a good place to start exploring more from this unique artist after his intoxicating Tiny Desk Concert is done causing your jaw to drop.
- "Raaga Khamaj"
- "O My Beloved!/Pillusion"
Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Becky Harlan, Meredith Rizzo; photo by Chloe Coleman/NPR