On January 12th 1963,
music rang and echoed throughout
the streets and temples of India
to celebrate and commemorate
100th birthday anniversary.
On this same special day,
Debashish Bhattacharya was born to parents who carried a deep and ingrained lineage of music traditions that would inspire him into
a life-long dedication to music.
The Beginning of the Pioneering Journey
At the age of 3, Debashish's father placed an old Hawaiian 6-string guitar on his lap and began teaching him Indian ragas. He was encouraged by both mother and father to play classical and folk melodies on this instrument. His parents would bring him to many musical concerts and gatherings to give little Debashish the opportunity to listen to great masters and legends of Indian music. He became inspired with a strong desire to capture the unique nuances of classical Indian instruments onto his slide guitar, however, he found his own instrument was limited to only a certain range. This sprang into a life long journey full of fascination and devotion in purifying, redefining, deepening and transcending the soundscapes of the slide guitar.
Since childhood, it was a struggle full of challenges for Debashish and his family to survive and sustain themselves. Their family had a legacy of 72 generations of Brahmins, Sanskrit scholars and music teachers that lived happily and peacefully in Central North of India and eventually migrated to Bengal 400 years ago (presently known today as Bangladesh). For generations, his ancestors shared their land with farmers who knew how to take care of plants and the earth. Debashish would hear stories from his father that their elders would say, "We must let the workers eat first and be satisfied before we can enjoy our meals." They would let the farmers do whatever they like on their land and to take care of it however they saw fit, the only thing they asked in return was for a small share of the crops to feed their family. There was a very beautiful communal relationship among his family and the care takers of the land. However in 1939, during the British India Raj that fueled riots between Hindus and Muslims, Debashish's family were invaded and chased off with burning torches. His father along with his father's two brothers managed to find a piece of wooden board to hide behind as they witnessed the killing of their highly respected Sanskrit scholar grandfather. The three of them were the only ones who survived and were forced to flee out of their homes. They ran non-stop for 3 days on foot without food or water until they reached Kolkata.
Debashish's father suffered from a heart attack at an early age and it fell on young Debashish’s shoulders to support and protect his family. They had very little money and he had to find a way to supplement and and sustain everyone.
Debashish sacrificed many comforts in his life to stay devoted only to music. Instead of getting a conventional job working for a company and making a living unrelated to the arts, he was firm with his belief that music is the only way to God.
Since the age of 14, Debashish would go door to door, giving music lessons for only 20 rupees just so
his family would have enough food to eat and afford proper medicine and manage rent. His mother devoted her life to music and gave lessons everyday.
For Debashish and his family, music was and continues to be a way of life.
It will challenge to make you grow and blossom in your spirit.
Music is what they love and continues to be what they survived on today.
The Calling of His Guru
At age 21, Debashish left Kolkata, leaving everything behind: his family, his home, his school, his job and his popularity in the music network.
He took a 47-hour long train ride carrying nothing but only a set of pajamas, t-shit on his back and his Chaturangui to go live and study with his guruji Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra in Ahmedabad, Gujrat in West India.
For a decade,
Debashish stayed and lived with his beloved guru from 1983 to 1992.
He recalls spending an average of 18 hours a day with his guruji and devoted the other 6 hours practicing alone, notating music, memorizing scales, patterns, compositions and melodies. Learning music and taking care of his guru was his first priority and he gave little room for his own needs.
A typical day started with learning, practicing and playing music with his guruji from 8am to 5pm. They would take a break and then start again from 8:30pm and would continue all the way to 5am. His gurujii believed in order to grow and nurture the depths of one's musical skills and understanding, it is very importance and necessary to analyze the finest details of music and performances of great legends. This way it can help train one's ears to understand the differences and similarities of each artist.
During Debashish's stay in his guruji's home, he devoted his time only to music and learning and taking care of his guru. He never once questioned his teacher “Why am I doing this?” or “Why must I learn this?” or “What will my future look like?” He surrendered and placed his absolute trust and faith within his guruji, never entertaining any doubts.
DEPARTING GURUJI'S HOME
Pandit Brij Bushan Kabra supported Debashish in becoming a professional musician and encouraged him to live with music in every breath. His guru sensed Debashish was ripening in his practice and the time was coming for him to broaden and share his talent.
In 1993, Debashish was invited to go abroad and perform in USA and Canada through a leading music institute in India called ITC SRA that organized several music festivals. This was a turning point in his life direction in which he felt it was time to start performing.
When Debashish turned 31 he started to focus on expanding his music not only nationally but internationally. He was on the road alone again and embarking on a whole new adventure to unfamiliar territory. He had trepidation of how other cultures would receive his music and whether his unique slide guitar playing styles had a space in the music circle.
As Debashish became more exposed to the music industry, he realized it would be easier to remain solely as an Indian Classical musician because it was challenging to go beyond his playing style and adapt to the other genres of music. However, he persisted on his musical path and was given special opportunities to collaborate with well-known international musicians that inspired and helped him grow.
Leaving the comfort and nest of his guruji's home, Debashish was on a path to finding himself, reconfirming and realizing the beauty within his own culture and upbringing, and transcending all of his musical education and inspiration into a legacy of Hindustani Slide Guitar and his most proud creation of his signature 24-string slide guitar Chaturangui.
"My life was never safe nor secure because I had to please a lot of audiences in foreign places. The audience didn't have any reference of what kind of music I played so it was difficult to sense what was appropriate, how much to share, and if my music was too difficult to grasp or be accepted by others."
After touring for about 3 years,
Debashish felt compelled to created his own guitar-making workshop to share his unique designs and constructions of his slide instruments to the world.
In over 50 years of experience in study and performance, Debashish has pioneered a style of Hindustani slide guitar that is remarkable and unique. Through exhaustive research and experience, he has designed and patented 3 guitars for raga music, which he has named Chaturangui, Gandhravi and Anandi. He has travelled all over India and around the world for more than 35 years representing Raga music and created a nish.
In his lifetime,
has been deeply blessed by the most loving gurus
in the world.
His beloved mother: Shreemati Manjushree Bhattacharya
His beloved father: Shree Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya
Late Acharya Maharaj Bandyopadhyay
Late Swar Samrat Ustad Ali Akbar khan.
Late Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra
Late Acharya Gokul Nag
Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty
ALONG THE PIONEERING JOURNEY OF HINDUSTANI SLIDE GUITAR
DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA FEATURED IN
DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA AWARDS
2016 Songlines Music Award
2002 Grammy Nominee
2009 Grammy Nominee
BBC Planet Award
Asiatic Society Gold Medal
In Debashish's travels all around the world, he has received both national and international recognition. His unique approach to contemporary compositions attracted some of the greatest musicians.
is honored to have met and collobrated with global legends:
American Dobro Guitarists
& 12 times Grammy winner,
African Kora Legend Ballake Sissoko
Jazz Guitar Legend John McLaughlin
Moroccan Oud legend Driss el Maloumi
American Bluesman Bob Brozman
British Singer Martin Simpson
Australian Rocker John Butler
American Rocker Henry Kaizer
Late Mandoline U.Shrinivas
Pandit Ravi Shankar
Ustad Zakir Hussain
Pandit Yogesh Samsi
And many more amazing world renown musicians and artists that continue to inspire Debashish in his music and work.
Among the 50 years of playing guitar, Debashish has mentored and fostered a line of young guitarists and musicians, training more than 1000 students, over 3000 of them are his direct and indirect disciples. He has inspired and changed the lives of many.
Debashish has adapted his own unique techniques along with his traditional classical music background and created the first 16-stages of Slide Guitar Syllabus which is the hallmark of his dedication to his music and creations. Through his surreal talent and firm discipline, Debashish has elevated the Hindustani slide guitar to be the highest evolution of slide guitar on a global level.
Debashish has become a legend of slide guitar and global inspiration in the contemporary and traditional music world.