In Conversation with Anubrata Chatterjee

Anubrata Chatterjee, a young, passionate, dedicated tabla player desires to bring Indian classical music to the youth of today. His band, Laya Curry, is a composition of a tabla player, an Indian classical dancer, a guitarist, a Djembe player and other varied artists.
Son of celebrated tabla player and recipient of the President’s Award Anindo Chatterjee, Anubrata reveals how his father inspired him. In the interview below, Anubrata describes how he’s trying to bridge the gap between the youth and the concept of classical music and breaks some suspense on his performance at the Dumru Rhythm Festival in Pune this weekend (Dec 19-20)!
You had the fortune of being the disciple of Padmabhushan Jnan Prakash Ghosh. Please share your experience.
Jnan Prakashji was a very dimensional person. I was not at an age where I could learn so much; I was only seven years old. Also, he was ill at the time I joined him. But the time spent with him was less of guru-shishya and more of grandfather-grandson. I was the last Ganda Bandh student. Ganda Bandh is a traditional knot-tying ceremony of a student.
Do you prefer playing solo or as an accompanist?
Tabla as an instrument is very versatile. Any tabla player dreams of playing solo. The aspect of solo tabla is very different. It gives me great pleasure to play solo. However, I enjoy playing as an accompanist. I learn a lot from my father when I accompany him. So I enjoy both equally.
You have played tabla worldwide. How do people from other countries respond to the classical instrument?
The West is always interested in Indian culture. Early in the 70’s, it was different and now the scenario is different. People are more aware due to social media. This scenario is going to change even further. I had gone to play the tabla with my father in New York in October and the crowd had drawn a lot of white people and they were cheering for us.
How did you decide to become a tabla player?
My father was playing all over the world and I grew up watching him play. I thought his life was pretty exciting; traveling and performing. However, it was my mother who supervised me. She would supervise my riyaaz. Once, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasiya asked me to play impromptu alongside him and that became my first performance on stage and it turned out great! One day, I got a phone call from Ustaad Amjad Ali Khan and he wanted me to play at a show in Delhi. But I hung up thinking someone was playing a prank on me. After I cross-checked the number with my father, I returned his call and apologised. When I went to Delhi, he told me I was to play at the Dover Lane Festival in Kolkata. So, that’s how it all began.
What according to you is the uniqueness of Laya Curry?
Well, I’d say there are many. It is a very electronic and organic band. What I feel is the tabla as an instrument doesn’t go very well with drums as drums are too loud. So we mix it up with the Djembe, Cahoe and such other instruments. We have a lot of instruments which have an African influence. We also have melody of the guitar. We also have the Indian Nritya dance. The thing about all the members of Laya Curry is that we all are trained by our fathers or classical teachers. We are aware of the actual traditional concept of music. We are bringing that concept in a modernised way to our people.
Could you give our readers a little insight into your performance at the upcoming Dumru Rhythm Festival? 
The Dumru festival attracts a lot of young crowd and I’m really looking forward to perform! The Dumru is Shiva’s instrument. I have tried to create a new soundscape and I haven’t heard anyone doing it before. I’m going to try to create the sound of the dumru with the tabla.
Any message for our Punekars.
Pune is soaked into music. Punekars are aware of traditional aspects. Pune, I think, is a melting pot for music. Yaha ke log bahot jaankaar hain. I would like to request the youth to please support classical music and understand our music. We are trying to make it more interactive. Classical music is not boring. The newer generation have a shorter attention span so we are working on creating something interesting for them. We are looking forward to create classical music in smaller sequences. More like a 20-20 of classical music!
— as told to Mehak Kukreja.