TALENTED SINGER ANANDI BHATTACHARYA ON HER DEBUT ALBUM, LEGENDARY FATHER AND THE LIVE TOUR by ASJAD NAZIR It was always going to be difficult for Anandi Bhattacharya to step out of the giant musical shadow of her legendary father Debashish Bhattacharya, but she took the first big step towards that with her stunning debut album Joys Abound last year. The singing talent announced herself with songs that have received universal acclaim and shown quite comprehensively that she is one to watch. She has also made a name for herself as a live performer, having delivered concerts around the world. The rapidly-rising star will accompany her slide guitar legend father on a UK tour this week, which includes headlining a London show. The live concerts, also featuring tabla great Tanmoy Bose, are organised by UK-based Asian Arts Agency and will cleverly combine diverse genres. Eastern Eye caught up with Kolkata-based Anandi to speak about music, the live tour, her legendary father and inspirations. What first got you connected to music? I don’t recall the first moment, probably because music was such an integral part of my daily life even before I was consciously aware of it. My parents tell me that as a child if I heard anyone play an instrument or sing, I’d sit down with my eyes closed, quiet as a stone. Indian music has such an incredible hypnotic effect that it’s bound to engulf one’s soul, if one has the patience to listen. How did your legendary father influence you? I could write a book on that, (laughs). Of all the things that influenced me the most, it’s the DNA. He has been the most humble learner. His ability to love is endless, and that shows in his music. He puts millions in a trance within seconds, not only through his mastery over the arts, but because he is open, and his soul is vulnerable and embedded in each note that he plays. I suppose I am seeking the same openness and vulnerability. Who were your other musical influences growing up? The forefathers of Indian music, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ma Annapurna Devi and Ravi Shankar. Shakti opened a new door for me; John Mclaughlin, Zakir Hussain and U Srinivas made magic together. I love Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mit-chell, Thom Yorke, Bjork, Bonobo and many others. What led you towards your unique sound? Today we are a population of 7.2 billion people and more than uniqueness, we as a species need to accept all the things that bring us closer together. Music reaches across to people irrespective of its origin because it addresses the common emotions that we feel. When I sing to an audience, I seek to connect to each of their souls through my expression. Indian music transcends acrobatics and grammar – it addresses the nine emotive rasas that each human being feels and experiences. I owe all of it to years of research behind this tradition. Your voice does have a maturity and depth way beyond its age; what is the secret behind that? Most of us have had experiences that make us leap across years and attain a certain sensibility that is beyond our years. Luckily we are gifted with empathy, as we travel a great length in an unfathomably short time, and I guess it shows. What inspired your debut album Joys Abound? I always felt that I was meant to do more than just one thing. As I grew up, I wanted to sing other genres. I was drawn to Western music and that was apparent to my father. I suppose our love and spirit for contemporary world music made the album happen. How did you feel when Joys Abound was released? It was a long process, and in two years I was metamorphosed. I learned so much and for the first time I saw a 2000-year-old tradition being orchestrated with a myriad colours of world music, and I flowed with it, imbibed and absorbed to adapt my voice to fit the role best! The album gave me so much confidence, and reinforced humility. How much did the amazing reviews right across the board, including from non-Asian international media, mean to you? I am so grateful for it all. I have been performing internationally for the past seven years in over 10 countries, and I’ve felt that Indian music reaches out to people instantaneously. It is a blessing to have a voice, and to be recognised in this day and age, and I feel the responsibility I have towards society as an artist, and I hope to be able to give back to the community through my music. How does recording songs in a studio compare to performing live? I think it is a matter of time. When you are performing live, especially if it’s improvised music you create at the moment and all of it stays as it is. Working in a studio is an affair that goes on for months, even years. How much are you looking forward to the UK tour with your father? Very much, we are playing some of the most amazing festivals in the world. I am really excited to be performing at WOMAD this year as well. Robert Plant is headlining on the last day, and to see my name on the same bill is quite huge. What can we expect from the live shows? You can expect lots of songs from the album and an electric trio among my father, Pt Tanmoy Bose and I. Do you ever get intimidated being on the same stage as your legendary father? Yes, indeed. However, I began enjoying it over the years. The challenge is exhilarating. What do you most admire about him as a musician? He is fearless, as he is giving and never rehearses or plans his set. Everything is in the moment, and a cycle of energy that is received and yielded. What is the best advice your father has given you? It’s impossible to pick one. My father gave me the liberty to be who I want to be and amid all the discipline, there was never repression. He embraces all my passions and encourages me to follow my heart. What can we expect next from you? I am coming up with originals that are borne from different cultures and genres that I’ve been exposed to over the years. I am really excited about it. What inspires you musically? Music offers a safe haven to everyone and that in itself is the inspiration and meditation that I seek. Who would you love to collaborate with? So many people. It’s been my dream to work with Jeff Sipe again, since my father’s project Calcutta Chronicles. Thom Yorke has been my muse since I was 16, so yes, reaching for the moon. What music dominates your own playlist? I couldn’t fit them all, and so many different genres too, but often my go-to playlist is a 10-hour loop of the sound of rain. Tell us your passions away from music? I paint and write poems too. I do want to be a chef when I have the time and the means to learn more about fine dining. You have been surrounded by music from a young age; what has been your most memorable musical encounter? Again, I cannot pick one. I saw Nai Palm of Hiatus Kayote live last year in LA. I still have goosebumps remembering that evening. Finally, why do you love music?  Why does anyone? The Debashish Bhattacharya trio tours the UK/Europe from May 25 – August 22. asianartsagency.co.uk for tour dates and further information.