Bickram Ghosh: ‘I’ve Been More Active Than Normal During the Pandemic’
The veteran tabla artist talks about how Indian classical musicians can adapt to the current situation and forthcoming projects
At 53, tabla veteran Bickram Ghosh still loves innovation and says it’s something every artist – especially in the oft-conservative Indian classical space – should be open towards. Where younger artists and Ghosh’s contemporaries may feel lost or out of place, he says he has no such reticence. “I’ve always readjusted my brain throughout my life to different scenarios. I was doing classical music, then from there when I went to fusion, I readjusted my brain.”
Known for his work with everyone from late sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar to George Harrison and more, Ghosh performs remotely for HCL Concerts Baithak on July 10th, with sitar player Abhisek Mallick from 7 pm onwards. The tabla player feels now more than ever, the world is realizing the true potential of music that transcends. “You can actually visit a mental space while being in a different physical space. It’s a spiritual quality which music has, to use a common word,” he says.
In the time of lockdown for the last few months, Ghosh says he’s enjoying honing his skills and daily practice, which was usually constrained due to travel for concerts. “So I always tell younger musicians and anyone who asks, you can use this time to hone your skills more. “And when the world opens up, you are in a stronger position than you ever were,” he says.
He’s seen plenty of musicians adapting to the situation, but adds, “I think adapting well is a relative word.” When in a digital concert space, artists are unlikely to find a “totally concentrated audience” as Ghosh points out. “An audience who is sitting at home, watching your concert can in the middle, just get up and go get a little bowl of cashew nuts. Or they’ll go and checking on their child in the next room,” he says. The importance, then, should be on performances and “content that is so engrossing and doubly engrossing than a normal concert.” He adds, “You have to give content which is absolutely arresting, not just captivating. It’s really challenging. They feel a little upset that they’re singing or playing but there’s no audience in front of them. They can’t see those people, there’s no waah–waah coming your way. There’s no claps.”
For Ghosh, there’s been ongoing work on an album with violinist Kala Ramnath called Rang, following up their 2019 collaborative album Paperboats. Ghosh says, “It talks about color, not just as an energy but it also talks what does color mean to us? If there is discrimination, it’s on the basis of color. If there’s unification, it’s on the basis of color and then you have a holi, which is the celebration of a dark-skinned god, Krishna.” Additionally he’s worked on the background score for Bollywood film Torbaaz, starring Sanjay Dutt, plus a Bengali musical called Maya Kumari, directed by Arindam Sil. “For me, I’m having fun. Pretty much on every front, there’s been working happening.” says Ghosh.
Watch HCL Concerts Baithak with Bickram Ghosh below.