Last year, Kolkata-based tabla maestro and percussionist Bickram Ghosh teamed up with ace violinist Kala Ramnath on Paperboats, a delightful album blending Indian classical music with global flavours. The two get together again on the seven-track album Rang, this time going in more for Indian folk, semi-classical and spiritual roots, and yet adding just the right dose of saxophone, guitar or cello on some pieces.
The amalgam of Indian classical elements with rustic tunes works beautifully, as both Ghosh and Ramnath play with virtuosity and verve. Moving from Holi tunes to Baul music to traditional devotional compositions, we are taken through a magical ride of Indian melody.
The opening tune ‘Rang’ is dedicated to the festival of colour, and also to Lord Krishna. The interaction between Ramnath and veena player Rajhesh Vaidhya is smooth, and the lines “Khelat Shyam Hori Gopiyan ke sang”, sung by Ambarish Das, are woven in beautifully. The video neatly blends live percussion and smart choreography.
‘Paal’, meaning sail, uses the dotara effectively, and the percussion is rooted in the folk music of Bengal. ‘Leela’ is a marvellous and smooth-flowing composition, using the saxophone and guitar to give it an Indo-jazz sound, with Ghosh also playing the cajon, frame drum and congas.
Set in a seven-beat cycle, ‘Rasiya’ talks of the love between Krishna and Radha, and one of its highlights is Soumyojyoti Ghosh’s bansuri, with Iman Chakraborty and Ambarish Das chipping in with vocals. ‘Bhawani’ is in raag Bhairavi, and dedicated to the warrior Goddess. Listeners would be familiar with Parveen Sultana’s rendition, but this is a different take with its tarana-inspired beginning, and violin-sarod and tabla-ghatam interplay.
‘Yatra’, sung by Ujjaini Mukherjee, talks of life’s uncertainties, and the main melody has a 1990s A.R. Rahman feel. Barry Phillips chips in with a charming cello solo. Finally, ‘Nau’ uses a rare nine-beat structure and ventures into jazz/ world music territory with violin, oud and a powerful saxophone stretch.
All tunes have their beauty. While Ramnath is consistently melodious, Bickram Ghosh displays his skill both as a composer and versatile percussionist. After his earlier albums Rhythmscape, Drum Invasion, Beyond Rhythmscape, Electro Classical and Paperboats, this is another feather in his cap. It’s one of those albums you’d want to play on loop.