Border Crossings

‘Knowing Happiness Without Restraints’

Anandi Bhattacharya: ‘…finding my sound with all that I love to hear and all that churns within me is my path forward.’

Ask Anandi Bhattacharya to appraise her debut international album, Joys Abound (Riverboat Records, August 2018), and she will answer without hesitation. “It’s about knowing happiness without restraints.” She makes this abundantly evident throughout, from the opening joyous invocation to Lord Ganesh to celebrating the colors of various world cultures, with all performances carrying a celebratory and positive message throughout, as Ms. Bhattacharya explores her traditional roots within a modern setting.

Being the daughter of the great Hindustani slide guitarist Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, Anandi has been surrounded by music since birth; her vivid childhood memory is of having “breathed in music from every room in the house” being a lasting blessing. Although steeped in the Indian classical tradition from an early age, Anandi’s celebrated father never encouraged his daughter to be a purist; instead, his wise advice was “never condemn a genre to elucidate the exquisiteness of another.” This philosophy paved the way for Anandi’s deepest regard for fusion, and consequently Joys Abound revels in a distinctly modern approach to tradition deeply influenced by other musical genres. As Anandi puts it, “the album is light-hearted but carries the true essence of ragas and their moods and evokes a sense of familiarity amidst uncharted waters.” Along with folk songs of Rajasthan and Bengal and a beautiful piece by Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, the album includes original compositions by her father and by Carola Ortiz, all enhanced by dextrous and sympathetic accompaniment courtesy Anandi’s uncle Subhasis, recognized as one of the world’s foremost tabla players.

‘In Between Us,’ Anandi Bhattacharya, from Joys Abound

Along with the towering influence of her father and other legendary Indian musicians such as Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar and Lata Mangeshkar, Anandi cites influences as diverse as Thom Yorke, Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell. This expansive approach, coupled with the years of dedication and nurturing of her voice (when she also trained under the renowned Indian female singer Vidushi Shubhra Guha), allows Anandi to explore new musical directions with authority. Listening to Joys Abound one gets a true sense of how her impressive tone and timbre allows her to convey the full gamut of emotions and expressions as it conjures up the flavors of a Raj asthani monsoon in “A Pluviophile’s Dance” and beautifully captures childhood nostalgia in “Maya’s Dream.”

For the musical philosophy at the very heart of the album, Anandi is indebted to the transformative experience of performing with her father and uncle on the global stage and the exposure this has given her to so many different countries and their music. This experience is best summed up by Anandi herself: “I do not believe that I was meant to imbibe my own culture alone. For me, finding my sound with all that I love to hear and all that churns within me is my path forward.” This outward looking approach imbues Joys Abound with real musical wisdom that belies her tender years.

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