Kaushiki holds Sydney spellbound

By Aradhana Bhatt

”˜She came, she saw, she conquered’! A phrase attributed to Julius Caesar and a phrase with many literary allusions truly sums up Kaushiki Chakraborty’s enthralling performance in Sydney on Saturday, 21st April. It was her debut concert in Sydney during her first concert tour of Australia. It is a rare occurrence for classical music lovers here to have a singer of her stature perform live, hence the concert organised by Aalap Inc was a much anticipated sell-out event. The relative remoteness of the spacious and acoustically sound venue in Dural did not prove to be a deterrent for the responsive and appreciative audience.  Alap Inc. is a newly formed group dedicated to organising classical music concerts in Sydney and this was their maiden event. They deserve commendation for their initiative and for a flawlessly organised evening. The music lovers of Sydney will look forward to many such concerts from them in the time to come.

A sensitive and experienced performing artist instantly picks up the pulse of the house, and Kaushiki was no exception. Only a few minutes into her first raga, came her spontaneous compliment ”˜for an audience like this, I can sing all night’, she said with that winning smile of hers! She began the evening with a full, hour -long Raga Kalavati in Vilambit (slow tempo) and Madhyalaya (medium tempo) Khayal, after admitting that this was her maiden performance of a Vilambit Khayal in Kalavati. She regaled in the beauty of the raga, despite the challenges that a raga like Kalavati, with only five notes, all ”˜Shuddh’, poses for such an elaborate and imaginative rendition. Her Aalaap and her Taan revealed not only her   vocal range from ”˜kharaj’ to ”˜ati-taar’ notes, her ”˜Gayaki’ also revealed a singer who becomes one with her art, who gives it her total self and who is not only gifted and inspired but also perspires and works hard on her ”˜Riyaz’. The evergreen ”˜Kinarey Kinarey Dariya Kashti Bandho Re’ in Raga Yaman followed by a ”˜Tillana’ (tarana) enthralled the audience and was a befitting finale before the intermission. Ojas Adhiya was brilliant on tabla and Ajay Joglekar on harmonium provided seamless accompaniment.

Kumud Merani, Sydney’s leading lady of radio, compeered the evening with her usual poise and grace. She opened the evening by introducing the artists. The brief post-interval on-stage interaction in a journalistic mode, between Kumud and Kaushiki was a welcome interlude, especially in view of the fact that local media did not get any such opportunity. Kaushiki did not disappoint in this too and spoke whole-heartedly. The interaction provided the audience with answers to the questions that many had in their minds. ”˜I am most beautiful when I am singing, I am most innocent and the purest when I am singing, I am most myself when I am singing’, were the words of the nightingale that would have touched many hearts in the audience. She spoke of Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan, the doyen of the Patiala Gharana as her God. When asked about youth engagement with classical music in current times, she urged not using labels like ”˜classical’ and spoke fervently about how promising it is to see youngsters approach her asking for a ”˜selfie’ after her concerts.

The post interval session was a little shorter and comprised mostly of audience requests. She sang Thumris, a trademark of the Patiala Gharana, to which she belongs. Her style often reminded us of her father and her guru, the great singer Pt Ajoy Chakraborty. Granting the ”˜farmaish’ (request) of the audience, she concluded with ”˜Yaad Piya ki Aaye’, a Thumri popularised by Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan and later rendered by many masters including Begum Parveen Sultana, Shobha Gurtu and Pt Ajoy Chakraborty. Kaushiki’s lilting sensuous voice, teamed with the technical perfection of her Gayaki created an experience that will continue to linger in our minds for many years to come.


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