Two World Music instrumental virtuosos join together for a historic tour when South African kora guitarist DEREK GRIPPER and Indian slide guitarist DEBASHISH BHATTACHARYA make their North American touring debut in Fall 2017. Each has re-defined the styles of music possible on their instruments, inventing new playing techniques, and composing new works which bring out the full array of their talents.
This special collaboration is offered jointly with The Awesome Company.
Derek began his formal musical training at the age of six on the violin. After studying classical music in Cape Town for the next thirteen years he began to look further afield for musical inspiration. This search took him to India where he studied South Indian Carnatic music. On his return home he began to focus on the guitar, trying to find a new direction for the instrument. He was attracted to the use of multiple layers in the music of Oliver Messiaen, the African-influenced structures of Steve Reich, as well as to guitar arrangements of the music of J.S.Bach, but it was when he met up with Cape Jazz trumpeter Alex van Heerden that he started to see that his previous studies could be used to find new directions for the music of South Africa.
After a host of groundbreaking albums which redefined the landscape of South African music, most notable being the visionary Sagtevlei with Alex van Heerden, Derek began to incorporate the music of other composers in his performances. His long-time fascination with the music of Brazilian Egberto Gismonti led to a project to transcribe this musician’s guitar music, a composer that Gripper describes as “the Heitor Villa Lobos of our time.” The result is a constantly growing collection of Gismonti’s scores and recordings, many of which have only been recorded by Gismonti himself. The Sound of Water, Derek Gripper’s recording of the music of Egberto Gismonti was nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) for the best Classical and Instrumental album of 2012.
In 2009 Derek began studying the playing techniques of this instrument by learning traditional Malian compositions on the kora, and two years later had a breakthrough: by using the simple textural language of the Spanish renaissance lute (called vihuela), it was possible to play the highly complex kora compositions of the great Malian virtuoso Toumani Diabate on the six string guitar, without omitting a note of the original performances. Derek Gripper’s project to create an African repertoire for the classical guitar, based on transcriptions of works by some of Africa’s greatest musicians, resulted in a growing collection of outstanding African Guitar arrangements, with works by Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Ali Farka Touré, Amadou Bansand Jobarteh, South African bow player Madosini and others, bringing the guitar and the music of African to life in new and exciting ways.
Derek Gripper released his ninth album, One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali, late in 2012. Recorded at an all-night session the album magically conjures anew a centuries-old ancient African musical heritage, interpreting kora compositions (21 string harp) on solo guitar, a feat which classical guitar legend John Williams said he thought was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it.” When Kora maestro Toumani Diabate heard these recordings he asked his producer Lucy Durán to confirm that she had actually seen one person play this music on just one guitar. He immediately invited Derek to collaborate with him in Mali, an invitation which saw Derek performing at the Acoustik Festival Bamako in early 2016, the first international festival held in Mali since 2012.
The UK’s top world music publication, Songlines, called One Night on Earth ”a staggering achievement,” and selected the recording as a Top of the World album in 2013. Derek’s “guitar has found the Kora-playing spirit, he captures the magic bound up in the way it is played”, says Williams, who invited Derek back a second time to collaborate in “The John Williams Series” at London’s Globe Theatre in June 2015 where the two musicians performed duets based on Diabate’s kora works.
In 2014 Derek was commissioned by Botkyrka Konsthalle in Sweden to compose and record a sound installation for two exhibitions linking architecture and art: The Venice Architecture Biennale and Fittja Open, a new biannual in Stockholm. The installation has been released on CD as Cassette Locale After Masanobu Fukuoka.
Libraries on Fire, a new record of kora compositions has just been completed, exploring kora duets on solo guitar. The Kronos Quartet have also premiered one of Derek’s arrangements for string quartet, continuing Derek’s work to bring “African guitar into the classical mainstream.” (Evening Standard).
Kolkata, India's Guitar Legend Debashish Bhattacharya started learning Indian music from his parents before he learned the alphabet. In his childhood he mastered many Indian classical instrumental styles as well as vocal music from different musical teachers in Calcutta. He became a disciple and student of Brij Bhushan Khabra, the father of Indian classical guitar, for 10 years, and also trained under Ajoy Chakraborty, the eminent Indian vocalist. He has also studied with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
As a performer, Debashish gave his first guitar recital at the age of four on the All India Radio, and in a public concert. In his twenties, he evolved a unique style of playing guitar, synthesizing selected features of various other instruments such as the Veena, Sitar, Sarod and Kannur. In 1984, he was awarded the President of India award at the age of 21.
Debashish developed his innovative Hindustani slide guitar after years of research and experience. He designed and built a unique Indian Slide Guitar called the Chatarangui.
It consists of a Hofner acoustic F hole guitar, with a hollow neck and a solid wood body and a total of 23 strings. He added a hollow platform of wood running the length of the guitar's neck, mounted with 17 tuning gears, in the rear side, as well as 6 tuning pegs in the front. This piece of wood extends the width of the neck, making room for thirteen sympathetic strings, and two supporting strings for additional versatility.
Above the 6 normal (sliding melody) strings, there is a pair of ckikari strings, as on a sitar. One of Debashish's innovations was to move them to the treble side of the guitar, which enables far more complex playing, since their rhythmic drones can be played by the fingers, over other melodies simultaneously. Debashish plays this guitar while sitting cross legged, with the guitar held on the lap and played with a small steel bar, metal picks and a celluloid thumb pick. He also plays two other Indian slide guitars he designed and built, the 14 string Gandharvi and the 4 string Anandi.
Debashish is perhaps the greatest slide guitarist in India. He has, both through creating the actual design of the instrument, and through his incredible talent and discipline, elevated the Hindustani slide guitar to be the highest evolution of slide guitar anywhere. Debashish's music has musical range, physical dexterity, and emotional depth. To develop his playing, he has undergone decades of disciplined study of Indian vocal technique combined with his instrumental work. Debashish can sing perfectly in parallel with every blindingly fast melody he plays. He is an eager collaborator with an open musical mind, and has performed with a wide variety of musicians.
Over the past two decades of his illustrious career, Debashish has received prestigious professional recognition on a number of occasions: He received a Grammy nomination in 2002, won the BBC Planet Award in 2005, received another Grammy nomination in 2009 and won the Songlines UK World Music Award in 2016. He is one of the most influential pioneers in Indian music, bringing his innovations to audiences around the world.
Derek Gripper & Debahsish Bhattacharya will be touring North America in
September 22 Globalquerque, Albuquerque NM
September 23 Schulman Auditorium, Carlsbad CA
September 24 Musical Instrument Museum, Phoeniz AZ
September 29 Lotus Festival, Bloomington IN
September 30 Ramey Auditorium, Fermilab, Batavia IL