Master Bender

Master Bender

Virtuoso santoor maestro Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya will seek to connect with the audience at his performance in the city.

It was during his sessions with his guru Pandit Ravi Shankar in the ’80s that a young Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya first felt the need to deepen the sound of his instrument,the santoor. After mastering the instrument,Bhattacharya turned it into a tool of his musical expression and then toured the globe with his renditions to enamour audiences worldwide. Bhattacharya will perform in the city at Ramakrishna Sabhagriha,on Saturday morning.

“When I was training with Pandit Ravi Shankar,he would often play notes in the lower octaves (kharaj),” says Bhattacharya,adding,“And the santoor being a staccato instrument did not allow me to access those micro-notes

between notes.” In the face of a crisis,Bhattacharya did not allow the instrument’s inability to become an impediment to his artistic expression.

“Stringed instruments such as the sitar,sarod and guitar

allow the musician to access these micro-notes by a process called meend (note gliding). I,therefore,had to make some structural changes to the santoor,” says Bhattacharya. He elaborates,“I added mankas (fine-tuners) to the strings,enlarged the cavity of the instrument,thereby enlarging its size and also added an extra string — that of guitar — to the lower octave set of strings,among some other minute ones.” The changes,says Bhattacharya,were induced to achieve a deeper and fuller sound.


“Ragas such as Mal kasun,Darvani karana and Bageshri consist of micro-notes and have a deep melancholic sound. These are also the kinds of sounds I enjoy dabbling in. The melancholy pieces are rendered best in lower octaves and the modification of my instrument allows me to do just the same,” says Bhattacharya.

In his career spanning over 35 years,Bhattacharya has

traveled the world relentlessly with his music and collaborated with numerous artistes and performed at world-class venues such as the Royal Albert Hall,Theatre de la Ville (France) and Apollo Theater (Spain). “I was invited by George Harrison through Pandit Ravi Shankar to England for collaborations and two solo shows,and one as a part of a trio that Harrison had organised in his home town,” recounts the santoor maestro,who under the tutelage of his guru was one of the first practitioners of fusion music when it wasn’t a fad.

As a musician,Bhattacharya’s vision of music arches beyond gharanas. “I belong to Maihar gharana and I am their only santoor player. Despite being raised as a musician in the gharana set-up,I am not a firm believer in gharanas. Rather,I believe the best of all gharanas must be harnessed to reach a unique sound. Else one’s music becomes restricted,” says Bhattacharya.

He also despises playing music only musicians can understand. “I think what a musician tries to achieve is a communion with the audience. So the musician must do whatever necessary to bridge the distance between the audience and himself/herself. If music does not connect with the audience,it is of no purpose,no matter how technically complex or sophisticated,” says Bhattacharya.

Tarun Bhattacharya will perform in the city at Ramakrishna Sabhagriha,on November 2,starting 6.30 am