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Ishaan Ghosh- The Legacy He Carries Forward


In this new series, we talk of young musicians making a mark in Indian music. Some of them belong to musical families, while others play for the love of music.

In the first part, we choose tabla exponent Ishaan Ghosh, who’s just over 20. Belonging to a rich lineage of artistes, this child prodigy has his priorities very clear.


Ishaan Ghosh- Birth of The Prodigy

When he was barely two and a half years, Ishaan Ghosh recalls giving his first live tabla performance in playschool. He had picked up a bit of teentaal. He remembers playing some compositions like peshkar and kaayda.

“Today, I feel embarrassed seeing the recording, but at that time, it was a huge achievement for me,” laughed Ghosh.

Belonging to an illustrious lineage, it was natural for Ishaan Ghosh to be surrounded by music since he was a baby. His father, Pt. Nayan Ghosh, is a renowned tabla and sitar player. He also heads ‘Sangit Mahabharati’ in Juhu, Mumbai. His uncle, the late Pt. Dhruba Ghosh, was an accomplished sarangi exponent. His grandfather Pt. Nikhil Ghosh was a tabla great, and his grand-uncle Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, a pioneering bansuri maestro.

Ghosh says,

“Naturally, I was surrounded by music, whether it was listening to others at home or attending concerts. Also, hearing recordings of greats like Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Vilayat Khan Saab, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab or Ustad Amir Khan.”

Since his father was deeply involved with the academic side of music, he would tell stories and anecdotes about musicians.

“He made everything sound so interesting. In such an upbringing, I was able to identify raags at a very early age. But my father allowed me to listen to different forms of music, and there was no restriction as such. But riyaz had to be regularly done in a proper manner,” he adds.


Beyond Tabla

His father plays both tabla and sitar, wasn’t he drawn to the latter instrument? To which Ghosh replies,

“I learned a bit of sitar. However, I’ve always been more rhythmically inclined than melodically. My parents tell me of this instance from when I was eight months old. Ustad Amir Khan’s raagMarwa would be played and I liked the vilambit jhumra taal. Each time the ‘sam’ would arrive, I would react.”

As he grew older, his focus increased. Ghosh would sit next to his father on stage and observe all activities. He would also watch videos of his father and study them closely.

“He’s been my biggest hero. I would sit alone in the room, acting out a part where I played his persona. My mother Jyoti has played a very important role in ensuring that I was dedicated, besides supervising my studies also,” says Ghosh, who went to Jamnabai Narsee School.

Though Ghosh represents the Farrukhabad gharana, he has kept an open mind when it comes to listening to the tabla maestros. So if he followed the works of Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa, Ustad Amir Hussain Khan, and Pt. Gyan Prakash Ghosh, he also listened to the recordings of legends from other gharanas, viz., Ustad Allarakha, Pt. Kishen Maharaj, Pt. Samta Prasad, and Pt. Anokhelal Mishra. This was besides his father’s contemporaries and friends – Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt Swapan Chaudhuri, Pt Kumar Bose, and Pt Anindo Chatterjee.


More to Ishan?

Apart from regular shows with his father, Ghosh has accompanied Pandit Jasraj on stage, besides sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee and vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty. While his focus is classical music, he is also involved in Araj, a group he formed to include other musicians of his generation.

The youngsters are mentored by Pt. Nayan Ghosh and stick to traditional music. On a personal level, however, Ghosh listens to various genres from Pop, Jazz, and Country to European folk, Middle Eastern, and Bollywood music.

Having begun at such an early age and played in numerous concerts, what advice would Ghosh give to youngsters learning the tabla? He replies,

“I am not old enough to give advice, but yes, if a person has decided that tabla-playing is more than just a hobby, the first thing he should do is find the right guru. There must of course be total dedication, and one must avoid materialistic goals.”

In the current scenario, when many musicians have taken a break from live concerts because of Covid, Ghosh says,

“Right now, the focus is on online concerts. They have some benefits, in that one discovered about the existence of so many artistes one had never heard of. Also, one learnt a lot of new things, as in how to set up a basic performance from your home.”


Like most musicians, Ishaan feels there’s no substitute for live concerts, both in terms of quality of shows, interaction with fellow musicians, and rapport with the audience.

“Though some live concerts have begun, it will still take time for things to return to normal. One hopes everything becomes okay soon,” he concludes.

Online or live, the dedication will continue, though. At his age, Ghosh is very clear about what he wants and is enjoying his journey.

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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