By Sonali Tambe
LEXINGTON, MA–Kaushiki Chakraborty, a popular Indian classical vocalist, dazzled the audience at Cary Hall in Lexington, MA on April 30th, 2023.
The concert was organized by Shadaj, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating and promoting Indian Classical Music in the Greater Boston area. Shrikant Datar, dean of Harvard Business School, was the chief guest of the event. He inaugurated the 2023 concert season and honored the artists.
After a few initial remarks by the organizers, Kaushiki took the stage accompanied by Tanmay Deochake on harmonium, Murad Ali Khan on sarangi and Sandeep Ghosh on tabla in front of a completely packed audience of 850 people.
She started the concert with raag Jog. The initial phrases in her crystal-clear voice immediately introduced the raag. She chose a traditional composition ‘Piharava Ko Biramaye’ in vilambit Jhumra. After outlining the asthai of the composition, she started the beautiful aalapi.
An important feature of Kaushiki’s gayaki is that she clearly delineates the raag. She shows the landscape of the raag with appropriate phrases leaving no doubt of the identity of the raag even for novice listeners. As the exploration of raag progressed to taar saptak, her awe-inspiring range of voice left the listeners spellbound. She executed the key feature of Patiala gharana, the movement in all three octaves with ease and perfection. The mellifluous expansion of the sthayi led to antara where she continued to show her creativity. The raag exploration progressed seamlessly into bol aalap, layakari, and behalavas. Saragama is another characteristic feature of the Patiala gharana. The ease, clarity, and precision of her saragama are truly remarkable and greatly appreciated by the audience.
Her layakari, especially ‘atit’ landing on sum was spectacular. The momentum gathered during the exploration of vilambit khayal culminated in the madhya laya Jhaptaal bandish ‘Tom Tanana’. It was followed by a drut bandish ‘Banara Bani Aayo’ composed by Pandit Ratanjankar. She sang the drut bandish in an unusal taal called Ikwai (16 beats) and then switched over to Teentaal demonstrating her command of taal. Swift taans and the interplay of taan patterns with taal is a beautiful feature of her gayaki. Her powerful and galvanizing taan patterns are interwoven precisely with taal. The speedy taans spanning the three octaves were crowd-pleasers again. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the rendition of raag Jog.
After a brief break, she chose raag Rageshree for her next presentation in which she presented madhya laya bandishes in taal Rupak and Ektal. Kaushiki did full justice to the raag with beautifully embellished aalapi, saragama, taans, and layakari. The flexibility of voice, command of various vocal techniques, rich tonal quality, and robustness of taans and saragamas show the amazing skill set she has developed with years of training and practice.
Kaushiki is a versatile artist, and her vast repertoire was evident in the next presentation of thumri in Pahadi including her signature thumri ‘Rangi Sari Gulabi Chunariya’. The audience was smitten by the expressive, delicate and nuanced rendition of the presentation. She concluded the concert with a beautiful bhajan.
The accompaniment provided by Tanmay Deochake, Sandeep Ghosh and Murad Ali Khan was definitely noteworthy. All accompanists are accomplished artists who frequently play with prominent musicians. The playful interaction between Kaushiki and her accompanists served well to enhance the experience for the listeners. Harmonium accompaniment by Tanmay Deochake was complimentary to Kaushiki’s gayaki. So was Murad Ali Khan on sarangi accompaniment. The harmonium and sarangi both followed Kaushiki precisely and enhanced the melody when appropriate. Tabla accompaniment by Sandeep Ghosh was restrained, steady and authoritative. Kaushiki provided ample opportunity for them to present their skills and talent and they earned ovation from the audience at various times.
Kaushiki’s concerts are never disappointing. As expected, this was an impeccable and flawless concert. She has found the magic formula that has attracted a much wider audience than just classical music aficionados and experts. She must be applauded for bringing romanticism to Indian Classical Music and broadening its appeal.
Equally impressive is her presence on stage. Her charming personality, ease, careful attention to each detail, and pleasant demeanor make her concerts an audio-visual treat. Her respectful behavior with her accompanists and organizers and her reverence for the audience are her noteworthy qualities as well.
Despite the magnitude, the event was perfectly executed from start to finish by Shadaj team. The well-oiled machinery of Shadaj volunteers carefully planned and effectively implemented all details of the concert. This event was a big success only because of the dedication of selfless, hardworking volunteers at Shadaj. Every aspect of this concert was praiseworthy and takes Shadaj to a league of its own.
Shadaj in association with Berklee India Exchange also organized a music appreciation session with Kaushiki where her fans, music students and anyone interested in learning more had a chance to hear her thoughts on music. The event was on May 2nd from 7 PM to 9 PM at Berklee School of Music.