Music

I am a bubbly person, so is my music: Kaushiki Chakraborty

BLESSED WITH TALENT Kaushiki Chakraborty   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Hugely blessed with beauty and brains, Kaushiki Chakraborty is much more than just a classical vocalist whose name is in circulation since she was barely two! Born in a family of brilliant musicians, she grew up within the four-walls of ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Insiders of SRA-family still remember how her baby-cries would get attuned to a tanpura and how she would respond to a melodic phrase as a six-month old; how her talent inspired her parents to think about an institution for gifted children, how she faced disapprovals for nursing her calf love for Partha Desikan, disciple of her father and a gifted vocalist, and remained by his side despite luring assignments from Coke Studio, TV channels and Bollywood!

Charmed by her feminine and innocent face, director Rituparno Ghosh had approached her with the title role in his film “Chokher Bali”. Her pretty face smiles down at star-struck people from huge hoardings as she is a rare classical musician who has a brand appeal. As such her fans follow her wherever she sings. She dresses up meticulously according to the theme of every concert, welcomes the fans with her warm conversation, arousing music and dazzling smile. Her popularity has reached a level that is organisers often require bouncers to ensure her security.

Kaushiki Chakraborty

Kaushiki Chakraborty  

 

Unusual? No, Kaushiki has enough reasons to feel that all this is very normal. Several serious classical musicians’ popularity put them in the category of stars and they cultivated their image with studied care. After all, unlike their predecessors, musicians are very much seen these days. Beauty, both in aural and optical experiences, adds to the pleasure.

“I do enjoy the attention,” admits a relaxed, casually dressed Kaushiki with disarming frankness. “I have seen iconic figures like Ustad Zakir Hussain handling all this with utmost ease. Pandit Ravi Shankar was very stylish. Shiv (Kumar Sharma) ji, Amjad (Ali) Khan sahib – all preserve their image very meticulously. Kishori (Amonkar)ji's carefully cultivated careless beauty and Lata (Mangeshkar)ji's white saris speak of tremendous style statements.

Excerpts from a conversation:

Shrutinandan is because of you. How did it all happen?

When the process was going on, it was organic. I lived in Shyamnagar with ma, grandparents and uncle while Baba was away in SRA, Kolkata. Ma discovered that I could sing and how to play with the seven notes. At that point even Baba hardly had any idea that I was born with a natural aptitude to learn music, with keen interest and perseverance to take the grind. He, at that time, was struggling on different grounds to establish himself as a versatile musician and guru. He had lots of senior students and had little time for a child.

I am a bubbly person, so is my music: Kaushiki Chakraborty

I was not even two-year old when I began singing tarana and bhajan, as per SRA archive’s records. At this point Baba thought ‘let's experiment.’ It was like an interaction between him and me, he started with voice throw. By the time I was five, my singing made sense. In Shyamnagar, we had no decent television, no cell phone (thank god!). I had lots of time after school and music was my sole playmate. I enjoyed to stay preoccupied with paltas as Baba encouraged me to create new patterns.

Such was my addiction that it was beyond my grandparents to tame and make me sit with books. So we came to Kolkata and I got admitted in a decently disciplined school. I was eight when Gaan dadu (Ajoy Chakrabarty’s legendary Guru, Jnan Prakash Ghosh) accepted me as his Ganda bandh disciple and taught a Rageshri composition. He mostly taught me compositions as this was his gateway to introduce the student to a raga. He taught me Khat bandishes which I don’t sing even now but (thanks to paltas) my voice was pliable and ready to adapt diverse melodic designs. This inspired my parents to teach in a well-structured manner and the seed of Shrutinandan was sown.

Are you still obsessed with music?

Baba is! He checks his range even in sleep! This is the uniqueness of his and older generations. Maestros like Hari-ji, Birju Maharaj-ji are always in to it. We, as a generation, don’t have this in us. I am not value-judging, but since we are exposed to so many things since birth, our receptive power is awakened. I have keen interests in diverse things of which Baba has no idea. I like to discuss why a film won an Oscar. I love photography, cycling, walking, backpacking, skiing; take a holiday to see the Northern Light; but sparsely talking – leave alone doing music or even listening to music. Baba also travels but within four walls, with music as his sole destination.

Your taans take a lot of space. Is skill more important than emotions?

Classical was born out of the need to express how technically sound the performer is. It’s not only about emotion. The teacher takes you through technique part first. He cannot start through emotional part. A child is not taught Byron, Keats or Shakespeare before learning the alphabets. It takes a lot of grind to learn the skill which is possible when young. I was given more and more skill in the primary stage of learning. Baba would gave a few phrases and ask to recreate and expand them – the way we are taught to write compositions with the help of a few words. Later I was exposed to aesthetics, to use the skill to express emotion.

My thumri is emotionally driven and decorated while khayal is technique oriented. As for taans, I consciously plan my music now, with the first 40 minutes devoted to raga elaboration, followed by taans and skill-show. I enjoy when people comment, ‘Kitna taiyar gaati hai’. When we dress up to be ‘taiyar’ for a party, why not go with the ‘taiyari’ or preparation on stage?

There are claims that you have replaced Kishori-tai, Parveen ji and the like already!

It is impossible! Primarily, because I will be Kaushiki no matter what I do. How I talk, smile and cry - no one else can. Those are my expressions. Similarly Kishori-ji's inimitable expressions will remain embedded in our hearts and minds. I am a bubbly person, so is my music – my predominant expression. I cannot put on a façade. I cannot be serious all the time simply because I sing classical; besides my wide interests have pushed me to fiddle with all possible genres (smiles coyly).

What are the things that make you bubble?

(Beaming) Anything bright and beautiful! I am blessed with a fantastic family and life. My compassion for those who did not get this kind of opportunities resulted in “Sakhi” and several other enjoyable projects, involving my extended family. I adore popular numbers. My kid-brother Ananjan and I would dance to Palash Sen’s “Dhoom pichak dhoom”, my first crush. In bath, I loved to create a studio-like effect by putting a bucket upside down over my head and replicated Ashaji’s hiccups and sobs. Rashid-kaku’s ‘Aoge jab tum’ moves me beyond words.

 

What inspired your experiments with other genres?

Ananjan introduced me to Michael Jackson and several other legends with special attention on counter pieces of the songs: the base guitar intros, the lower or middle frequencies. This exposed several layers of music. His obsession helped me understand many things that I didn’t even notice due to my over-protective grooming, pursuing only one aspect of music-making. All this humbles me and helps me to see how great and vast music is!

Gradually, I began to appreciate how (harmonium wizard) Ajay-ji or (sarangi exponent) Murad-ji counter my phrases before we come back on sam. I realised light music is more demanding than classical in some ways, especially from sound perspective – a subject Ananjan is passionate about. Voice projection is very different in playback singing. His studio gave me enough time and space to practice this, without any inhibition. This I could not do elsewhere, naturally! My baby-brother showed me that volume frequency is connected with emotion. As a result, I could step inside Coke Studio under Shantanu (Maitra) da’s direction, I did “Kaga” for Shankar Ehsan and Gulzarji. Bollywood was never my dream, but it happened too.

Apparently, there are sacrifices behind every success. Who carved yours?

Initially Ma (Chandana Chakrabarty), who is trying to rediscover herself now! A gifted vocalist, she became the backbone of a family which took a crucial journey from refugee to celebrity-status. She took it upon herself to keep every piece in its proper place come what may! This commitment to perfection is extremely demanding and in the process she gave up on her career; but groomed hundreds of children. That is why Baba could visualize Shrutinandan of which she is the beacon.

Ma would say, ‘If you sing, my dreams will be realised.’ I started off as her tool; and later Partha, my childhood friend, husband and doting, hands down father of our only son Rishith, saw me getting totally involved in music. I love to perform while he is a fantastic teacher with great patience. As a mother I am not like Ma who was happy to give up something to get something. But with Rishith around, I simply cannot do riyaz behind closed doors or go out to party. That’s not me. In each other’s company, we are a party! The rest falls in place, Thank God!

I am a bubbly person, so is my music: Kaushiki Chakraborty

Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty on Kaushiki and Ananjan

I never claim that ‘I taught’ someone. Kaushiki is born with His grace. Whenever I come across such gifted children, I simply pray that they be blessed with a focused mind and resilience to make the best out of their talent. Kaushiki is very intelligent and earned popularity on her own merit and enjoys a great following. She still plays around with ragas oblivious of the ambience and platform offered. I simply ask, ‘what next?’ She has yet to enter the ragas’ inner core. It will happen someday, God willing!

There are many social media platforms where one finds a lot of experimental recordings of Western instruments, whereas Indian acoustic instruments are conspicuous by their ‘ethnic’ tag and near absence from the scene. Usually Indian musicians and their sound technicians get to know and understand the sound through experience. There is no method of training.

Ananjan’s interest in the subject led him to best of institutes and teachers like Daman Sood-ji, a renowned sound designer and the resultant achievements of the Ananjan-Studio of Shrutinandan. Apart from several successful projects, like IIT Kharagpur’s Sandhi, taken up by Ananjan-Studio, ‘How to Record Indian Acoustic Instruments’, the latest joint venture of the Guru and Shishya, hopes to unveil the unexplored vistas of Indian music-making.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 9:10:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/i-am-a-bubbly-person-so-is-my-music/article24106075.ece

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