Drum rollhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/drum-roll/

Drum roll

Tabla player Bickram Ghosh on how one album pushed him into a lifetime of rhythm

One of the earliest Indian classical music albums I was exposed to was Darbari Kanada by legendary sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan. My father,Pandit Shankar Ghosh,was on the tabla. I still have the same LP record in my collection but had to buy a CD version since I no longer have a turntable that works. There are many reasons why this album is one of the greatest classics. First,this is quintessentially Vilayat Khan sahab— crystal clear sound and the famous lightning-speed taans that Khan sahab was known for. The sense is of a king’s durbar and you can easily shut your eyes and move to a time hundreds of years back.

The more important aspect,for me,was my father on the tabla. Rarely does one hear such a crisp hand,such clarity of bol and such sensitivity of accompaniment. The uthaan or opening piece on the tabla is a tukra —a short pre-composed piece which is almost never performed at the beginning; my father started this trend. Then the tabla settles into this marvellous sitarkhani theka which even today is one of the grooviest pieces of tabla I have heard.

Sometime in the Eighties,Ustad Zakir Hussain told me that he considered this album an example of how tabla should be played with the Vilayat Khan school of sitar. I couldn’t agree more. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear this album. Many winter mornings in the early Seventies,when I first heard the album,swim across my mind and I remember the little boy sitting in the balcony and listening to the album float through from the living room,time and again. Those were moments that defined my life and made me want to become a tabla player.
As a child,I was unable to fully analyse the depth of this piece,but I was attracted to it instinctively. Today,I realise I had every reason to be so enamoured. I am grateful to the two masters for inspiring me thus towards a lifetime in music.