Listening to the sitar of Purbayan Chatterjee one would think that this a musician who has been at the top of his profession for many years such is the level of maturity and technical competence in his playing. In a very short time this young maestro has established himself as an artist of great invention who is poised to take the sitar to new heights. Purbayan achieves a fine balance between the lyrical and technical content in his music, at one moment his sitar sings out the sweetest melody at the next dazzles us with his virtuosity. Purbayan Chatterjee comes from a family steeped in the classical music tradition. His father and guru Partha Chatterjee is a distinguished sitarist in his own right, having established himself as a highly respected teacher and performer in Europe and USA as well as in India. He had the great fortune to study extensively with one of India's greatest musicians Nikhil Bannerjee, who today holds a profound influence on Purbayan's approach to music. In the tradition of the Senia Maihar gharana, founded by Baba Allaudin Khan, Purbayan's playing is an aesthetically satisfying combination of the best facets of 'Dhrupad' and 'Khayal', North India's two most established classical vocal forms. The discipline and richness of the 'Dhrupad' form is interspersed with the romance and lyricism of 'Khayal'. In recent years Purbayan has had the benefit of guidance from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, one of India's greatest sarod players, once described by Yehudi Menhuin as the finest musician of the twentieth century. Sitar remains the most popular and distinctively recognisable instrument from India. It reflects the rich cultural heritages of both the Indian sub-continent and Persia, from where it's name derives. There are literally thousands of sitarists in India who are of performance standard and the fact that Purbayan Chatterjee is already acknowledged as on of India's best at such a young age speaks volumes for his endeavour and natural talent. For this recording Purbayan has performed Raga Behag, a romantic raga of the late night. He begins with a short alap (Aaochaar) played in a slow, unhurried manner creating an air of spiritual reflection. The composition is taken from the traditional vocal repertoire of Hindustani music ('Ali re Albeli, sundar naar') set to rhythmic cycle of sixteen beats, known as teentaal. This composition form is known as Bandish. Indian music is essentially improvisation, and the musician's ability to interweave spontaneous patterns around the particular bandish is an important element of the performance. One can hear how Purbayan has crafted a style of playing that can echo the finest vocal nuances. As the performance progresses, the tempo is increased in degrees, until the sitarist and tabla player embark on a playful interactive dialogue known as sawal-jawab (lit. Question and answer) towards the end of the piece. The tabla player skilfully mimics Purbayan's melodic phrases using the colourful range of sounds on the tabla; the phrases get shorter and more intense as the sequence progresses until they join each other to play a final motif repeated three times (tehai) to bring the performance to an exciting conclusion. The next composition is based on Raga Khamaj (track 4), a sensual raga, performed mainly in the romantic thumri form and other light classical genres. According to one poet this raga holds the ability to 'turn the flowers red with passion'. In this rendition, notes outside of the usual framework of Khamaj are added with great effect, and for this reason it is referred to as Misra Khamaj (lit. Mixed Khamaj). The rhythmic cycle is known as Sitarkhani, again consisting of sixteen beats, but this time with a distinctive lilt and swing. Purbayan then introduces a part of the performance known as laggi (track 5), in a faster tempo which has the feel of a four beat groove. Here the tabla player has the opportunity to play some inspired rhythmic variations with an emphasis on the open resonant strokes on the tabla. Satyajit Talwalkar provides tabla accompaniment of the highest quality throughout, at times sacrificing his own virtuosity for the sake of the overall performance. Satyajit Talwalkar is the son of two of India's most highly respected musicians, Suresh Talwalkar, an influential tabla player and teacher, and Padma Talwalkar, an accomplished khayal singer. Purbayan concludes the recording with Raga Pahadi (track 6); a charming melody associated with nature, in particular the hills and valleys of Kashmir, derived from one of it's sweetest folk melodies. Songs based on Pahadi often express the painful separation of lovers ordained by destiny. John Ball.
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