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World Music CD Reviews South Asia


By Tom Jackson
Published September 27, 2005

Calcutta Slide-Guitar
Riverboat/World Music Network

The story behind this release is full of surprises. Who knew, for example, that from 1929 through to the late 1940s, Calcutta was caught up in a craze for the Hawaiian string guitar? A remnant of that vogue, left lying round the house, caught the eye of young Debashish Bhattacharya and he took to playing the instrument with such prodigious talent that he was giving his first major concert at the age of four. His crystalline ragas are picked from guitars ranging from a 22-string monster that manages to evoke the Western slide-guitar as well as the violin and sitar, right down to a tiny slide-ukulele. Part Ry Cooder, part Ravi Shankar, Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya isn’t your regular guitar hero, and while this is demanding listening, it is both exquisitely produced and dazzlingly played.