Hitting the tabla with his impeccable skills, bagging innumerable accolades like Grammy and enthralling everyone with his inspiring journey - The story of Taal Aficionado ‘Bickram Ghosh’
20th October 1966
Kolkata, West Bengal
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Music - Tabla
When one goes down the memory lane, music in olden times was all about the Indian Classical genre. Harmonium, Sitar, Flute or the Tabla, these classical instruments and their popularity among the masses have never lost their charm. The melodious sound waves from the Indian Classical Music have been appreciated worldwide. Not only our young generation is exploring this old traditional form of music, but also youth from all over the world are getting fervent about it.
Oscar nominated percussionist and tabla exponent Bickram Ghosh is a maestro as well as a pioneer of the Indian Classical and Fusion Music. Born to the illustrious tabla legend Pandit Shankar Ghosh and well-known vocalist Sanjukta Ghosh, recently he has achieved another milestone in his career by recreating Vande Mataram with Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shankar Mahadevan and other sensations from the Indian Music Industry in the year 2012. He has won laurels like Grammy for his album ‘Full Circle’ with Pandit Ravi Shankar and was nominated for George Harrisons ‘Brainwashed’. As a composer in collaboration with Sonu Nigam, his first movie ‘Jal’ made headlines as it received Oscar contention for best score. This eminent musician has more than 100 albums to acclaim and 21 feature films. He has donned several hats in his career. Soon he will be seen as an actor in the upcoming movie ‘The Band of Maharajas’. This is just few of his many facets, the list of this tabla virtuoso is never ending indeed.
We are keen to know; how did your journey begin?
I belong to a family full of musicians; my mother is a singer and my father, a skilled tabla player, I started playing tabla since I was 2. My father engendered the interest of playing tabla in me by setting up ring of tablas all around the house, to persuade me to play and learn at the same time. It was sort of chakravuyh (circle) established to create that urge in me. I practiced singing with my mother as she was a very skilled in that craft. Hence, my home was indeed a house of talent.
Know me Beyond Tabla
Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Samta Prasad Ji, Pandit Kishan Maharaj Ji, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Kumar Bose, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee
I draw inspirations from
Pandit Ravi Shankar, R D. Burman, Madan Mohan, Vangelis (Hollywood), Santeria
Food I Love
Good food from all around the world, especially Japanese food
Food I Hate
Bad food in any cuisine
Had I not been a Tabla Player then…
I would have been English Professor
Like Vacations at
Europe, England and mainly historic places. I visit Thailand every year
Favorite Pass time
Reading Books and Watching movies
‘It isn’t over until it’s over’ From Rocky (Hollywood)
Favorite Movies / Series
Legends of the Fall, Inception, Kill Bill, Sholay, Don, Gangs of Wasseypur
Favorite Actor / Actress
Amitabh Bachchan & Aamir Khan (Bollywood), Uttam Kumar (Bangla), Tom Hanks & Brad Pitt (Hollywood)
What’s your success mantra?
For me success mantra is nothing but ‘hard work & passion’. If one has passion for something, working hard inevitably becomes easy.
What were the hardships / hurdles you encountered and how did you overcome them in your journey?
Like everyone, rather than hardships I would say, I too had my share of hurdles! Initially it was getting out of my father’s shadow of his earned fame and fortune. Instead of comparing my work with that of my father’s, which happens to most of the star kids; I wanted people to know me by my talent. I wasn’t ready to reign under my parents’ spotlight. Creating my own identity was my priority that needed developing my own niche & style. In the year 1994-95; I decided to develop my own panache in music. I was influenced by Carnatic music and inspired by the gharanas. The audience realized that my craft was different from my father’s work and that helped me to portray an independent image and this way I cleared the first hurdle.The second hurdle was the competition in the field of music. If one chooses a career in music, he/she should be ready to open door for struggles and accept the fact that being successful requires one to face uninvited hassles. I had to continuously work hard over my subject to prove my worth in the industry, hence I developed new styles and techniques. There are so many young musicians who are doing well at the age of 25-30. I prefer staying in the competition by creating my own forte. That keeps me strong to overcome all impediments and remain pertinent to my work. I never became prisoner of my own image. There was a phase when I stopped playing classical music, as I was not favouring the perspective of tabla players being treated as a second lead to the main artist. I wasn’t convinced with this system and hence I decided to create a band of my own and formed ‘Rythmscape’. I realized getting successful is not that easy and getting stereotyped was not acceptable. I restarted my career at the age of 32. I was creating new sounds to make an inimitable image. Making an applauding career in music sustained me. People started treating me as a star that helped me gain an equally relevant position in the India Classical Music Industry. Film music composition came later in the 1990’s. I have composed music in Hindi and Bengali. Along with an Oscar nomination, I have been a Grammy recipient. I am working with some of the greatest artists like Sonu Nigam. Last film I did was ‘Khajoor Pe Atke’, directed by Harsh Chhaya. I am doing a movie called ‘Band of Maharajas’, where along with playing music, I am acting too. I have done 13 to 14 Bengali movies. I don’t know how to write music but till now I have done 30 odd films while competing with 25 years old talented composers. So, I have been dabbling various kinds of musical forms. Every phase is a challenging one. Change is the only constant and one must persistently try out new things to stay firm on the ground. I remember Hariharanji had quoted in the year 1994-95,” Chalees pe har kalakar ugta suraj hota hai aur chalees ke baad doobta suraj kehlata hai” (Within the age 40, every artist is a rising star and after 40, like the sun settling down)
Success is incomplete without its share of setbacks. What advice do you give to others about handling failures?
Facing failure is a good way to train oneself for the future to succeed. When you fall, you get up and don’t remain lying on the ground. There is always a triumph after failure. One cannot be a slacker all the time. So, to be a winner, a breakdown is necessary. It’s a motivation in a positive manner. If I would have failed more in my career, I would have become a better tabla player and a composer.
Do you think Music and its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Music is a wonderful element on earth. Even if it is taken up as a hobby, it keeps you sorted. It has been researched that when musical waves pass, immediately the brains react to it and you become calm. Everything enhances with music. Humans, planet and the whole environment gets benefit from music. Even if two people are fighting, music can change the situation to a better one. The sound waves improve the mental psyche. The brain registers every signal positively. Every school should have music as a compulsory curriculum. It is observed that music also impacts a healing effect on terminally ill people.
Who has been the main influencers in your journey & how?
I am influenced by my father Pandit Shankar Ghosh. I am trained and truly inspired by him.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I Am The 1”?
I consider myself the luckiest one. The minute I think I have made it, trust me my career would be finished, and the zeal in me to achieve more will end. There were many success points in my career, but I never considered it as the final ones. It was a proud moment for me when Pandit Ravi Shankar chose me to work with him. I have been working with the top-notch classical musicians for over a decade and travelling all around the world to perform. These special moments are treasured. Few other achievements like the success of my band, release of 200 albums belonging to different music genres like Classical, Pop, Hindi and Bengali; composing for cinema, nomination at the Oscars, being a recipient of Grammy and highest musical recognition in West Bengal makes me feel good but I don’t sense that my purpose is solved. Still I have a huge bucket list. I might as well as Die rather than thinking it’s all done.
Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?
I received formal training in tabla from my father and his Guru Gyan Prakash Ghosh. Then I received training from Pandit Ravi Shankar in intricacies of accompaniment. I also was tutored under Guru Rajasekhar for Carnatic percussion.
Could you reflect on the importance of systematic training in Music?
Systematic training is necessary for learning Indian classical music. It must be Guru-Shishya Parampara as it’s a tried and tested mode of training. There must be one-to-one training between Guru and Shishya. With normal training course one can be successful but to have a sustained career, obtain constant training atleast for 20 long years, otherwise fame would be short-lived.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or anything else?
For a professional career in music, one must start early at the young age of 2-4 years because at that tender age the bones of our arms are flexible to play the instruments, so it’s easier to learn. For hobby sake, it can be learnt anytime. In my academy, there is no age bar.
Technology has been changing the way people get trained in Music. What’s your take?
If the technology is good, it’s an advantage. Online training is acceptable occasionally. Being physically present in training is important.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for Music?
It’s very tough to get an ideal guru. How a guru manages & trains his students and the reputation he gains leads you to him. It’s the parent’s duty to guide young kids in selecting an idle guru. But it’s destiny & luck that will direct you to the best teacher.
If you were to bring one big change in the way people get trained in Music, what would that be?
We must continue with the Guru-Shishya Parampara. If the guru is away or not available, training should be supported by online mediums and the latest technology. One must not leave their training in between. Learning from recent recordings on YouTube can be beneficial. Lot of learning material is available on the internet. When we were young, we used to wait for recordings to come out so that we can hear and learn from them. Today training in music has become very easier and accessible. Combination of all the above methods along with lots of continuous practice and getting positively influenced by good singers can become the key. The right musical teaching needs to be imparted to the talented. Before going for any competition at local, national & international level, one must get fully trained.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of Music in remote parts of India?
Presently, good music is easily available and even its lessons have improved. One can simultaneously hear and see the contents. Music should be made compulsory in school & colleges globally, this will make our new generation good human beings as music has a very positive effect over the soul.
Your piece of advice to parents of the young generation especially when some people are skeptical about career in extra curriculum.
Parents must give proper orientation about music to children. We are creative species. If we don’t explore the creative side, there will be an emptiness. Activities apart from studies will orient children to be good humans and artists as well. Parents must involve their kids in resourceful fields like music & dance.
One thing which you feel you wants to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
I would not like to change anything.
How can one identify & encourage talent in the family?
To encourage talent, 3 things are important: Reading, Music & Sports. Children should choose any of these. But nowadays they don’t take interest in any of them, they have become more academic in nature.