A Sarodist with a penchant for fusion

A member of the Western band AROY, he has his own band called The Arnab Bhattacharya Quartet where he integrates Indian classical music with Jazz and Blues. He has performed in Europe & Central Asia

Sarodist Arnab Bhattacharya
Sarodist Arnab Bhattacharya

Anit Mukherjea

Sarodist Arnab Bhattacharya’s short film Life After Death, released in August last year, has won nine major international awards so far. The film received an award from Denmark for the best graphic concept. Other awards arrived from Berlin, South Africa and Portugal for the best music in a short film.

The theme of Life after Death was triggered by the Covid pandemic and revolves around a husband returning home to his wife who is expecting. On his journey he witnesses people dying everywhere. The grim journey however ends on an optimistic note when he finds to his relief that both his wife and the newborn baby are fine.

The story moves in sync with music composed by Bhattacharya who blended eastern and western music. Asked to explain his penchant for fusion, he says, “Music to me has a global connotation which transcends boundaries and musical traditions”.

He recalls a recital in Madrid (Spain) when he was barely 14. He played with a group of young Spanish musicians with no clue to their language or culture. But it did not pose any difficulty in presenting the concert.

I refer to violinist Yehudi Menuhin's book The unfinished Journey in which he marvelled at Hindustani classical exponents playing extempore from memory whereas their western counterparts would find it impossible to conduct a concert on stage without musical notations.

Said Bhattacharya, "Indian musicians through their intensive daily riyaz (practice) are able to visualise the ragas that describe seasons, nature and human situations besides the subtle nuances of mood, time and space. There is no need for notation as the emotions, subtle changes in mood and daily practice serve the purpose of committing them to memory."

He has however planned a module for theoretical study through video films and introduced notations for better assimilation of the ragas.

Bhattacharya as composer has scored 30 compositions in a span of two years. The most notable of them being 'Silent Memory', 'Tandav' and 'Howrah Mail'. He is also working on an ambitious new project namely a musical album 'Altogether' in collaboration with 16 musicians from across the globe. It is expected to be released by November this year. He composed the musical score for the documentary film The Great Indian Painter based on the life of artist Hemendranath Majumdar. His musical innovations also struck a chord in the advertisement film Bhorer Kolkata on the ancient heritage and traditions of Kolkata.

A member of the Western band AROY (A Reflection of You), he has his own band called 'The Arnab Bhattacharya Quartet' where he integrates Indian classical music with Jazz and Blues. He has performed in Europe, Bangladesh and Central Asia and has given lecture demonstrations most recently in the University of Geneva.

Barely 39 years old, he took to Sarod at the tender age of four, when he was introduced to the string instrument by his father. But he owes his grooming to Sarod maestro Buddhadeb Dasgupta. He is precocious and he is restless. Watch out for him.

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