Followers of Indian classical and world fusion music will recognize Anandi Bhattacharya’s name: her father, Debashish Bhattacharya, is one of the foremost contemporary slide guitar innovators, while her uncle, Debashish’s brother Subashish, plays tabla in a number of different projects. On Joys Abound, Anandi promises to carry the Bhattacharya torch further into the future – with, of course, the help of her family.
Warm and grounded, Anandi Bhattacharya’s voice tends to spread rather than climb, tracing wider and wider spirals as she sings rolling ballads like hypnotic and honey-sweet “Amaro Porano Jaha Chay” and romantic “Flor De Puja”, a song that incorporates lovely touches of classical guitar alongside some of Bhattacharya’s most poignant melismatic delivery. Does Bhattacharya hit high notes? Sometimes, but she’s clearly stronger when she has the chance to buckle down and let the sound ripple out of her. Sometimes, as on “In Between Us”, ambitions overrule good judgment, and she strains uncomfortably as she tries to leave her vocal range.
Fortunately, those moments are in the minority. Bhattacharya begins with an exultant spiritual piece, “Jai Ganesh”, in which low tablas gallop beneath her gilded voice. Joined by a choral backdrop, Bhattacharya exemplifies the titular abundance of joy here before moving into more multicolored territory with urgent “Aurora”. She ends up aiming for those too-high notes here, too, but the build-up to them is enchanting and well worth listening.
Highlight “A Pluviophile’s Dance” imagines the gradual progression of a rainfall, beginning with sparse strings that quickly gain speed and are bolstered by the addition of tabla texture before Bhattacharya’s voice arrives, pure silver as it hits the ground. Flutes add a breeze here and there, and the overall storm is a refreshing one.
“Maya’s Dream” follows and it’s a wonderland of vocables and bass-driven curiosities. Bhattacharya hits each syllable here with a light, crisp touch that shows how precise she can be, how utterly nimble. While she spends so much of Joys Abound sharing the spotlight with family and other musicians – and there are some fun instrumental interludes on “Maya’s Dream” as well – this song feels more like her time to shine, not by overwhelming but by tracing her own winding path.
The last truly revelatory track on the album is “Migration of Colours”, a freeform session of jazz and Indian classical sounds that blend perfectly into a vivid, organic gradient of clarinet, slide guitar, tabla, sitar, and voice that culminates in a snappy extended coda of staccato claps and sharp strings. Subtitled “Bulería Meets Holi”, the song gives exactly that: fast flamenco and springlike celebration all in one long, constantly-shifting track.
Thanks to her skill and the nurturing of her musical family, Anandi Bhattacharya has a long stretch of time and space before her in which to explore her style as an artist. Joys Abound shows both that she has room for growth and that she has a tremendous head start over other new artists. The album’s sense of innovation and Bhattacharya’s vocal versatility show a huge amount of potential already. So long as she continues to go above and beyond, Anandi Bhattacharya has every right to think of herself as a torchbearer for the next generation of Indian classical music pioneers – not content just to rest on the laurels of her literal forefathers, but constantly sculpting brand new shapes from beloved sounds.