Debasish Mukherjee is A grade artist for All India radio and recognised to be one of the top tabla artists in the world having played with Pandit Rajan & Sajan Mishra and Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj. He is a prominent member of AKDC, contributing musically to most of the company’s productions - ONE, LAAL SHAARI, YERMA and now A THOUSAND FACES.
Here he tells us why he enjoys playing with the Company...
Why do you work with Amina Khayyam?
We understand each other very well, we know each other very well and I like to bring her stories to life. I like to accompany kathak, to bring together vocals, kathak and contemporary choreography, the cello (a cello features in AKDC’s Yerma). I like to do this kind of work, and Amina’s ideas always offer something challenging and interesting to work on.
When did the relationship start?
We started working together 10 years ago but I think it was in1999 that we met for the first time on the filming of an ISTD module in London, I played tabla and she was one of the dancers on the project.
How does playing for kathak differ from playing as accompaniment for a musician?
To play for Kathak dancers is very challenging and a tabla player needs to be very alert. It offers a chance to use all your skills, you can improvise and there is a lot of scope for this. When you play as an accompaniment for a musician there is not as much scope as when you play for kathak.
Why don’t many tabla artists play for kathak -- and why is it something that is looked down upon?
My father Guru Pandit Kanai Mukherjee used to explain that to become a complete tabla player you have to play accompaniment with vocal, instrumental music, solo as well as dance. If you can play these four things you are a complete tabla player. To play for kathak is very difficult but it is not negative. When you are good you can play with everyone!
Amina has often said that the tabla is a character on its own in her storytelling, it is just like another dancer on stage – do you see it that way?
Yes of course, because tabla has that kind of feeling, that you can be a character in the story, she is right! I’m very impressed with how Amina is making work, which includes live musicians, that is wonderful and is very good for everyone involved in her projects. I want to work with this company, contribute my ideas and of course continue working with Amina.