The year 1962 was a high point for Pandit Shankar Ghosh, when he toured a number of countries with none other than Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the sarod master, that won him a lot of acclaim on an international level. Many also remember him for his concert with Micky Hart of the band Grateful Dead, in San Francisco that same year. He was also a part of tours undertaken by the likes of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, and also collaboratively performed with stalwarts such as John Bergamo and Greg Ellis. As a display of his incredible dual-prowess as both a musician and a teacher, Ghosh also served as a professor at the Canadian universities of McGill and Montreal.
Ghosh was also an occasional vocalist, keeping with the Patiala gharana, and a recipient of the prestigious “Sangeet Natak Akademi Award,” along with the “Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Award” and the “ITC Sangeet Research Academy Award.” He married Sanjukta Ghosh, a vocalist of the Hindustani classical style (Patiala gharana) and the couple had a son, Bickram Ghosh, a tabla master in his own right. Ghosh well remembered and used to reminiscence of his days of learning by speaking of his own teachers, such as Firoz Khansaheb. The latter possessed a rich and robust style, mostly noted for his efficient two-finger style of the Delhi Gharana, elements which influenced Ghosh himself.
The tabla virtuoso’s excellence was further amplified through his compositions, in conjunction with his performances. Music of The Drums (1975) was a standout vision of his, an orchestra which was also utilized as in the closing ceremony of the 1982 Asiad Games in New Delhi. This was a unique orchestral setup, inclusive of only tabla, later renamed as the Calcutta Drum Orchestra, even performed in Japan to rave reviews. Anindya Chatterjee, the tabla player, was introduced to the icon as his uncle was Ghosh’s disciple. He noticed a distinct change in Ghosh’s performance over the years, from speed and clarity to complex and beautiful renditions of “bol-bani”. These served to inspire Chatterjee in his own career and style.
As one of the founders in Ali Akbar Khan College of Music in California, his influence has reached far beyond the borders of his own country, as one of the vanguards of tabla music. Most of his disciples are established tabla players in their own right. Today, he is deeply and widely missed both within and beyond the musical fraternity as a champion of his chosen profession. A profession which he considered as a part of his very being.