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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

A Maestro’s Beatmaster

Tanmoy Bose,a fixture in Pt Ravi Shankar’s concerts for two decades,talks about playing a Grammy-winning set in the maestro’s living room.

Written by Suanshu Khurana |
March 18, 2013 3:50:11 am

Tanmoy Bose,a fixture in Pt Ravi Shankar’s concerts for two decades,talks about playing a Grammy-winning set in the maestro’s living room.

The last album that tabla exponent Tanmoy Bose played on,won a Grammy this year. The album titled Living Room Sessions Part 1 (EMW Music),comprises Pt Ravi Shankar’s informal music sessions with Bose. Two other Grammy-winning albums,Full Circle and Concert for George,had Bose accompanying Ravi and his daughter Anoushka Shankar,respectively. But even as fans discussed the brilliance of these albums,Bose was not even spotted at the award ceremony or,like most musicians,did not talk about his role in these works. “It is Raviji’s brilliance that makes the albums great. I am glad that he considered me worthy enough,” he says.

Bose,unlike most percussionists,is not a whimsical tabla player. His percussive flashes in the concerts of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Shankar have dazzled many in the past,but Bose has never gone overboard with any of this,knowing when to retreat and allow the other musicians to take over. So when he played a set at Shankar’s memorial service in India last week,it seemed like time for a much-needed replay. “He would lovingly call me ghoda,” says Bose.

Bose comes from a family of musicians and was taught by gurus Tanai Dutta and Shankar Ghosh. But back in the ’70s,when he was a young boy learning the ropes of percussion,meeting Shankar was a dream. “His music was something else. He had become so popular by then that it was difficult to meet him after concerts. The Beatles mania had been going on for a while,” says Bose. Then,the dream came true. Bose participated in Kolkata’s famous Dover Lane Music Conference and won the first prize. “Shankar was the chief guest and gave me the award. Many years later,when I showed him that photograph,guruji was really surprised,” says Bose,who went on to accompany Shankar on his international tours for almost two decades.

It was a little over a year ago that Bose was invited to Shankar’s home in Encinitas,California,for an informal music session. The sitar maestro wasn’t keeping very well and was too frail to play at concerts. “But it was hard to keep him away from his music,” says Bose. So Shankar’s living room was converted into a makeshift studio for the next four days and the sitar maestro played with Bose everyday,recording seven ragas in the middle of “lots of laughter,great food and rounds of coffee”.

“I wanted Tanmoy to be around at that time because he would always make Raviji laugh,and keep him in a good mood,” said Shankar’s wife,Sukanya,at the memorial service.

The resulting music was a more mellow and reflective style than the two usually followed. The passion with which Shankar and Bose have created this album comes across in the musical experience. Shankar may have been 91 during the recording,but one can’t spot any fuzzy twangs as the two blended moods and pace at the sessions. The seven ragas played include a pensive Malgunaji,the sensuous Manj Khamaj,the upbeat Kedar and raga Satyajit,an ode to Shankar’s long-time associate and friend,the late film director Satyajit Ray.

“For someone who was in his tenth decade,it was striking to see such technical virtuosity. Doctors had told him to not play beyond 45 minutes,but he would just go on for long hours,immersed in his music,” says Bose. “If he liked a particular theka,he would say ‘wah’ and ‘kya baat hai’ (which have been retained in the recording). For me,it was a beautiful experience to be a part of these meditative travels with him and his final musical journey,” he says.

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