[3 June 2008]
When I first heard of this album I imagined that it was going to sound like last year’s release from Debashish Bhattacharya’s old collaborator Bob Brozman: a mutable bag of genres, no two songs alike. My imagination was wrong. Still, not completely wrong. The tracks on Calcutta Chronicles incorporate different genres all right, Sufi here, some imported African-Americana there, but those other genres have been subsumed in the melodies of different ragas. On a first, quick listen the whole thing seems less surprising than Brozman’s album, but on repeat listens you get a chance to appreciate just how much this master guitarist has done and how cleverly and with what expert ease he’s done it. “Kolkata to Kanyakumari” hums with the delayed fades of the Carnatic south and “Sufi Bhakti” springs around with the antic sounds of the minstrel Bauls while “Ganga Kinare” is a more traditional piece of work, yet it’s all drinking from the same stream. It’s all raga. Constant interplay between Bhattacharya and his brother on the tabla ties the album together. This is an excellent disc, one that rewards multiple visits.