One of the uniquely poetic features of Indian musical tradition is the attachment of ragas to definitive times of the day. From the crack of first sunshine at dawn until diminuendo into darkness at dusk, every fragile moment of earth’s daily passage is linked to a specific raga. It is believed that the melody and modality of each raga is at its most powerful when played during its allotted hour. On Slide-Guitar Ragas From Dusk Till Dawn Debashish Bhattacharya guides listeners through his sensitive exploration of raga rotations.
Debashish’s apparatus is his self-designed chaturangui guitar. The chaturangui is a Hindustani adaptation of the slide-guitar with six primary strings, four supporting strings, two drone strings and twelve sympathetic strings creating tonal similarities with the Indian sitar. Debashish plays his instrument with a three-finger picking style derived from ancient practices of veena playing. The veena is an ancient predecessor to the modern sitar, distinct for its resonating gourd chamber, bridge and long neck. Debashish’s instrumental influences include sarangi player Ustad Bade Ghulum Ali Khan and sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan. Later he formed a close relationship with Jodhpur-born guitar pioneer Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabr. Debashish now considers Kabr his musical guru. ‘Roshni (The Light)’ is played on Karb’s custom-made Gibson S400 guitar, top layered with lines on Debashish’s gandharvi and anandi models.
‘Aarti (The Evening Ritual)’’ opens the album in evening mode with two extended introductory explorations of Puriya Kalyan raga. These sections, the alap and jor, open an Indian classical performance by elaborating and expounding the tonal framework. Debashish’s touch at the outset is spacious, plucked notes are left to reverberate, ghostly harmonics echoing out atop a resolute drone. Ever so slowly the opening cadence crescendos, cascading into urgent eighth-note patterns. By the end of the track tremolo discord descends before a masterful guitar flourish to close.
‘Ras Tarang (The Waves of Desire)’ is a Kirwani raga often associated with the midnight hour. This track is played on Debashish’s gandharvi in a seven-beat time cycle. Gandharvas are the custodians of music and dance in ancient Hindu mythology. Skilled musicians themselves, the spirit of these Hindu devas is said to be found in the strong natural scents of bark, sap and blossom. The paired strings of the ghandarvi guitar ring out ethereally across the texture on this track creating a lingering, mysterious feel uncovering the central creative theme of desire.
‘Mehfil-E-Jashn (The Celebratory Concert)’ is in the Darbari Kanara, a late night-time raga which emphasizes the instruments lower tessitura and the modal lower tetrachord. Dabari Kanara is considered to behold a powerful emotional impact. It also possesses a respected royal history: it was popularized by Miyan Tansen, a sixteenth century composer in the court of Emperor Akbar.
‘Roshni (The Light)’ is a raga for burgeoning morning, the evanescent moment just before night recedes into dawn. Here Debashish treads a pensive, positive-sounding tonal world. On this track Deabshish’s musical debt to the legacy of Hawaiian Lap Steel guitar playing can be profoundly heard in the shining guitar melody that bends and swoops above an empty texture, before tabla joins raising the tempo.
‘Vasundhara (Mother Earth)’ breaks the dawn and rejoices in the coming of morning. Debashish’s opens with a boldly bluesy leitmotif. This track eschews the more meditative mood heard prior and launches headfirst into tight driving rhythmic propulsion. The textural contrast alludes to the sense of urgency at the start of a new day.