Indian sitar player and composer Purbayan Chatterjee, draws inspiration from the original spirit of the raga tradition, channeling his early-life mentor and Indian classical master Nikhil Banerjee, whilst on the search for a new voice on the new album with flautist and lifelong friend, Rakesh Chaurasia.
Purbayan Chatterjee’s latest album Saath Saath, featuring 7 ragas for morning and night and recorded in Bombay in March 2022, is set for release on September 9. Co-written with flautist Rakesh Chaurasia, the record will be performed and toured in both the United States and the United Kingdom throughout September and October, with the debut album performance by the collective that happened at the highly anticipated Festival of India@75 presented by the Indo-American Arts Council in partnership with the Consulate General of India in New York on August 14 at Carnegie Hall, and a show at London’s Barbican, as part of Darbar Festival, October 16th.
Purbayan’s music consistently aims to bridge cultures as he searches for new voices, interpreting the classical approach in new and innovative ways. Whilst Saath Saath is perhaps the production and album that sticks closest to the spirit and traditions of the ragas, it’s also an evolution from Purbayan’s progressive take-on Indian classical music, an approach that began in earnest after a moment of epiphany on one of his many trips to California during the 1990’s when he’d make a musical pilgrimage and immerse himself at the Ali Akbar College of Music, founded by the great sarod master, Ustad Ali Akbar. It was during these visits, with some downtime, he first heard the sounds and far-out jazz of Ornette Coleman and asked himself, “Is it alright to enjoy this so much?” After much internal protestation, he realized, in order to deeply immerse yourself in tradition, one needs outside influence. And that conclusion has forever been enshrined through his work.
Saath Saath was recorded in Bombay, home for Purbayan and Rakesh and features Ojas Adhiya on tabla and Taufiq Qureshi on percussion. It was recorded in March 2022, in a small chamber orchestra environment in one or sometimes 2 takes. The album’s progress follows the passing of day and night, with the first half of the album dedicated to the more soothing morning ragas and the latter night ragas, building to a crescendo.
Purbayan and Rakesh have been friends for two decades, and have steered a similar musical path, experimenting outside of the classical tradition. Purbayan’s previous recording Unbounded Abaad from 2021 was a collaboration with banjo player Bela Fleck and the eminent Ustad Zakir Hussein among many others on a progressive jazz-rock opus. Literally meaning ‘doing something together’, Saath Saath brings Purbayan and Rakesh’s chemistry and friendship to the fore, and through their instruments, the sitar and the flute, show the intimate dynamism between the pair, two uniting souls.
Purbayan began his life in music at 5 years old, when his father, the guru Shri Parthapratim Chatterjee gave him a sitar and introduced him to the music of Nikhil Banerjee from the school of Baba Alauddin Khan – a huge name in Indian classical music and from the same school as Ravi Shankir. His father took Purbayan to meet Nikhil at the age of seven where Purbayan played a tune with the intention of joining his school. Just two years later Nikhil passed away but that meeting was a pivotal moment and the beginning of his life-long obsession with the sitar.
Whilst Purbayan’s work can broadly be categorized within the Hindustani Classical prism, his recorded work since his breakthrough in early 2000s, has been criticized for its non-purist style. Responding to negative critique Purbayan is clear,”I really do care but it’s not everything. I had a period of rebellion, musically and in life. I had long hair and I would play sitar standing up. But now it’s a question of the audience, the listeners and people experiencing the show and music. Will they believe in it?. The aim is to be true to oneself.”
When asked what his musical hero Nikhil Bannerjee would have thought about Saath Saath, Purbayan quickly attests, “He would love this record, always looked for innovation and once said ‘music is the language of the heart’”.
Stream New Album Saath Saath Here:
Full tour dates here:
23rd Sept                   Earlham College, Indiana
24th Sept                   Austin, TX, Bates Recital Hall
25th Sept                   Boston, MA Lexington Historical Society
30th Sept                   Chicago, IL, World Music Festival
1st Oct                       Scranton, PA, The theatre (only Purbayan Chatterjee and Ojas Adhiya)
2nd Oct                     Sunnyvale, CA
7th Oct                       Houston, TX, Matchbox4
8th Oct                       Los Angeles, CA, Herrick Memorial Chapel
9th Oct                       Minneapolis, MN, Recital Hall of St. Catherine University, Minnesota
16th Oct                     London, UK, Barbican Hall Darbar Festival
21st Oct                     Seattle, WA, Eastside Baha’i Center
22nd Oct                    Boulder, Colorado ,The Dairy Center
23rd Oct                     New York, NY, Merkin Concert Hall