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Biography

Deben Bhattacharya (1921-2001) was a , radio and record producer, anthropologist, documentary filmmaker, photographer, translator, poet, lecturer, and consultant. He produced over 100 records, 23 films and published more than a dozen books in his lifetime and much of his work was carried out under the auspices of UNESCO.

Bhattacharya was born to an old Bengali Brahmin family that was settled in Benares for over 130 years. As a young man, he was influenced by the work of English poet Lewis Thompson, which prompted him to move to England, where he worked for the BBC as a radio producer. Knowing a lot of Indians in London, he started to record Indian musicians on a Baird tape recorder. When Bhattacharya had the idea to do field recordings in India, he was met with a financial dilemma of needing £80 for the tape recorder, £20 for the transformer, £25 for 20 blank tapes, plus about £60 for a one way boat ticket to Bombay. Sunday Wilson – a producer for the overseas service, commissioned him for six five-minute programmes, which garnered £30.6.0. Weeks after that, the poet Stephen Spender, who had started his new magazine ‘Encounter’, approached Bhattacharya to write an article on Indian poetry and advance him on two further articles. Argo Records also advanced £25 and paid for the Gaumont-British machine, and the tapes against future royalties. He returned with enough material to make four or five records, and one of them was published, called "Songs from Bombay". This led to a trip through the Middle East, recording music in every country, as well as other projects.

Bhattacharya continued to earn international recognition as an expert on ethnic folk music, dance and poetry and was employed to help teach ethnic music and bring ethnic musicians to Sweden. Living for periods of time in London and Stockholm he began making films in 1962 when his BBC Third Programme producer, Robert Leighton, introduced him to David Attenborough, who was then an executive at BBC Television. When Bhattacharya told him that he would be going to India with an experienced cameraman, Attenborough offered him £1,000 to help with his expenses. Upon his return, the BBC edited the material into two films: ‘Kathakali’, the classical dance drama of South India, and ‘Storytellers from Rajastan’. Following this, Swedish Television gave him money to make a film in Hungary. This led to film making in Romania, Tibet, China, Bangladesh, Nepal and many other countries. Towards the end of his career, Bhattacharya had archived over 16,000 photographs related to his various projects.

Partial filmography:

* Waves of Joy: Anandalahari - Director
* The Cosmic Dance of Shiva - Director
* The Chanting Lama - Director
* Silk and Strings: Taiwan - Director
* Raga - Director
* Painted Ballad of India - Director
* Krishna in Spring - Director
* Jesus and the Fisherman - Director
* Faces of the Forest: The Santals of West Bengal - Director
* Echoes from Tibet - Director
* Buddha and the Rice-Planters - Director
* Chinese Opera - Director (1983)
* Land of Smiles: Thailand - Director (1973)
* Bali: Isles of Temples - Director (1973)
* Ecstatic Circle: Turkey - Director (1972)
* Adaptable Kingdom: Music and Dance in Nepal - Director (1972)

Partial discography:

* Bedouins of the Middle East 1955-60 - ARC Music
* Sounds of West Sahara: Mauritania - ARC Music
* Maqams of Syria - ARC Music
* River Songs of Bangladesh - ARC Music
* Treasures in Sound - India UA International, 1967
* The Living Tradition Music From Turkey - Argo Records, 1968
* The Living Tradition Music From Iran - Argo, 1971
* The Living Tradition - Songs of Krishna - Argo, 1971
* The Living Tradition Music From Bangladesh - Argo, 1972
* The Living Tradition - Songs and Dances From Macedonia - Argo, 1972
* Various - Folkmusik Från Rumänien - Caprice Records 1972
* 2 Ragas - Sveriges Radio
* Musique folklorique du monde: Yougoslavie - Musidisc
* Musique folklorique du monde: Iran - Musidisc
* Various - Sacred Temple Music of Tibet - ARC Music 1998

Books:

* Songs of the Qawals of India: Islamic Lyrics of Love
* Songs of the Bards of Bengal
* Love Songs of Vidyapati

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