By Sunayana Kachroo
WESTON,MA–March in New England is a month of celebration. While the snowcapped peaks adorn the landscape, tulips express their intent to bloom, we begin to welcome the arrival of spring.
What makes this transformation even more endearing is that during this month, Boston also hosts yearly music festival presented by LearnQuest Academy of Music. For a few days the stars and the doyens of Hindustani and Carnatic music descend here and enthrall the audience with their art and brilliance.
The lineup of the artists performing at this event is what makes this festival very unique. Only the best of the best proponents of the art perform, engage and converse with the audience. Hours seem to slip away like a short lullaby.
March being the month of international women’s day as well (March 8th), the festival this year has an impressive league of women artists performing and displaying the Shakti ang of the power of music. While very the talented Kaushiki Chakraborty and Rachna Bodas bring in the Hindustani khayal touch to the festival, Oscar nominated stalwart Bombay Jayashree and Aishwarya Raghunath entwine the Carnatic flavor to this weave.
While these artists are celebrities in their own way and probably need no introduction but as the date of the festival nears it is an appropriate time to just reflect on their journey.
Kaushiki Chakraborty, a shining star in the galaxy of Hindustani classical music has been a forerunner in making Hindustani
classical accessible and “cool” to the younger generation of artists.
She is the daughter of Chandana Chakraborty and the renowned Indian classical singer Ajoy Chakraborty. She has accompanied her father in his world tours of music performances since the late 1980s and had sung her first song, a tarana, at the age of 7.
She has also learnt Indian classical music at the academy of Jnan Prakash Ghosh who was also her father’s guru. She has been groomed by many gurus like Shri Vijay Kichlu, Balamurali Krishna and her own father Shri Ajoy Charaborty. She holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Chakraborty has formed an exclusive women’s musical group called the “Sakhi” (meaning friend) to “celebrate womanhood”.
Rachna Bodas is a well-known Hindustani classical vocalist and has been recognized for her unique style of singing. She was duly encouraged by her father Shri Ravi Shankar Shukla, an accomplished tabla player in Kanpur.
In 1992, her training was formalized under the able guidance of (Late) Pt. Kashinath Shankar Bodas. Since 1998, she has been learning from eminent vocalist Dr. (Smt.) Veena Sahasrabuddhe.
She holds a Master’s degree in music from Pune University and Sangeet Visharad from the Gandharva Mahavidyala Mandal. She was awarded with the national scholarship from the Govt. of India. She is also a B-High artist of All India Radio, Lucknow in classical and light music category. She has accompanied her guru in various concerts in India and abroad. She has given performances at major music conferences and festivals in India and USA.
Bombay Jayashri, is very well known and respected for her beautiful singing as a classical Carnatic singer as well as for her occasional dabbling in film music. Her voice has a texture that is hard to replicate.
Jayashri was born in Kolkata, into a Tamil family of music connoisseurs and musicians. While growing up in Mumbai, she started training in Carnatic music under the guidance of her parents Seetha and N. N. Subramaniam. Soon, she went on to learn with T. R. Balamani, and trained under her for almost a decade. Jayashri was also initiated into Hindustani music and trained under Sri Mahavir Jaipurvale and Sri Ajay Pohankar. When she moved to Chennai, she came under the guidance and mentorship of her guru Lalgudi Jayaraman.
She also learnt the veena from G. N. Dhandapani Iyer. Jayashri has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from R. A. Podar College, Mumbai, a Diploma in Music from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi and has been conferred a Doctorate by the Mother Teresa Women’s University
Jayashri worked with Ang Lee on his motion picture, Life of Pi. She performed the lyrics for “Pi’s Lullaby”, which was nominated for the 2012 Oscars in the Best Original Song category.
Aishwary Raghunath, an A-graded artist of All India Radio, has the honor of being the disciple of musical stalwarts – Sangita Kalacharya (Late) Smt Seethalakshmi Venkatesan, Padma Bhushan Sri P S Narayanaswamy and Sangeetha Kala Sagaram Smt Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan, thus being moulded into the Semmangudi bani and the Veena Dhanammal bani.
Aishwarya was awarded the Government of India scholarship (Ministry of Culture) between the years 2008-2010.
Aishwarya spent her childhood soaking in the music of the masters. She would wake up to Smt. MS Subbulakshmi’s music, which was one of her greatest influences as a child. As her guru, Smt. Seethalakshmi Venkatesan once remarked, “This child is like camphor! She grasps music like the camphor does fire!”.
Academically, Aishwarya is a Biotech Engineer but is a musician at heart.
The festival dazzles the listeners every year, the number of people attending this festival has consistently increased over the years and has incited the interest of Indian classical music in the younger generation of musicians and music lovers as well.
The 13th annual music festival will be held on March 30-April 1 at Regis College in Weston, MA.
If you already haven’t, please book your tickets and check the schedule at
(Sunayana Kachroo is a Boston-based award-winning poet, lyricist and a film writer)