Guitar Ragas from India and Desert Blues from Niger

The UK's World Music Network, best known for the famed Rough Guide CD series, announces tours for its most prestigious single-artist label, Riverboat records. From Calcutta, India, slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya, and from the drifting sands of the Sahara, Niger's desert blues nomads Etran Finatawa both come to the US in April and May.

Hindustani slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya will embark on a 14-date tour of the United States on April 2, 2008, to coincide with his new Riverboat album Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey, set for release in the US on April 8th. Pandit (maestro) Debashish Bhattacharya is one of the world's greatest slide guitarists and arguably the foremost exponent of Indian slide guitar. An innovator in his development of a "trinity" of slide guitars (the 24-string hollow neck Chaturangui, the 14-string Gandharvi and the Anandi, a 4-string slide ukulele), Debashish, accompanied by siblings Subhasis on tabla and Sutapa on vocals, takes listeners on a timeless journey through the history of Indian classical music - arriving finally at the 21st century.

Born to musician parents, Debashish Bhattacharya was a child prodigy who started playing guitar at the age of three. Initiated into Indian classical vocal, he was drawn to the guitar because of the way it could emulate the human voice with a slide. Bhattacharya has studied under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Pandit Ajoy Chalraborty (Khayal, vocal) and the Godfather of Indian classical guitar, the legendary Pandit Brij Bhushan Kabra. Debashish's work has earned him the President of India Award in 1984, the Asiatic Society Gold Medal in 2005, and the BBC Planet Award for World Music in 2007.

Among the grasslands of the Sahel and the shifting dunes of the Sahara desert, two legendary nomadic peoples, the Wodaabe and Tuareg, are joined together in the raunchy guitars and haunting voices of Etran Finatawa. As the winds of change cast uncertainty over their nomadic lifestyle, both cultures are at a crossroads. Etran Finatawa reflect on their roots, with a nostalgia and warmth that mirrors the majesty of their desert home. They are six musicians - Tuareg and Wodaabe people but now based in Niamey, Niger. Many of the songs on the forthcoming Desert Crossroads (April 22nd) reflect their longing to return to their roots - the nomadic lifestyle which relies on cattle, the great expanse of the Sahelian grasslands and never-ending dunes of the Sahara. Since the release of their first BBC Award-nominated album (Introducing: Etran Finatawa, 2006) the band toured constantly all over the world. It wasn't until July 2007 that they found time to record Desert Crossroads, produced by Paul Borg (Mory Kanté, Abdel Gadir Salim).

Desert Crossroads is an album of North African blues, underpinned by acoustic percussion, traditional Wodaabe vocals, fused with electric guitar and Tuareg rhythms. The combination of Wodaabe vocals and Tuareg rhythms and arrangements is quite unique. The songs are nostalgic reflections on their people and the desert. 'Kel Tamasheck' (The Tuareg People) reminds how important the Tuareg culture is and not to abandon the desert, ' the wind that takes everything on its way and people just fled by foot leaving behind them nothing but sadness and desolation'. 'Iguefan' (The Dune) talks of the worries of the Tuaregs ' this unique people existing but they are all dispersed…and they are not able to get together and reunite to show that they are one people.'

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