The idea of people packed like sardines in auditoriums — for classical music — has more or less become a thing of the past. One only sees this phenomena now in the case of extremely popular or established or senior musicians. So when the audience came in droves to listen to the 35-year-old Kolkata-based vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty at Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium, one wondered if the Capital’s audiences had made the exception because the young singer’s performance was to be followed by her father, guru and vocalist Ajoy Chakraborty’s recital. Afterall, 30s are considered extremely young in the world of Hindustani classical music. “Aap sab baba ko sunne aaye hain,” said Kaushiki with a reticent smile. Their applause for Kaushiki, however, at regular intervals, hinted otherwise. As for Kaushiki, there was nothing self-effacing about her performance of an extremely difficult raag, Puriya Kalyan. As Kaushiki’s voice spiralled up and down with crackling speed, slowing down at various junctures to stress on the nuances subtly, interacting with sarangi player Murad Ali and tabla player Satyajit Talwalkar, one got reminded of a young Begum Parveen Sultana and the thrilling precision with which she used to sing.
More than just the gayaki of Patiala gharana seemed common between Sultana and Kaushiki in this particular concert, which is by far this year’s best till now. She sang, every challenge eagerly met and emotional range steadfastly delineated. Kaushiki followed the khayal with a short thillana she learnt from the famous vocalist M Balamuralikrishna. A rhythmic piece from the Carnatic classical form, Kaushiki performed this well, but stuck to the basics of Hindustani form and stylised it like a Hindustani taraana.
And there it was, a performance without any theatrical folderol whatsoever. It was a stripped down classical music experience that was dauntingly intense to say the least.
Just after Kaushiki’s performance Pt Ajoy took the stage for the next hour with Hamsadhwani, a raga that bridges the North and South Indian classical divide beautifully by existing in both the styles. While Kaushiki’s recital had a lot going on — she showcased all the skills taught to her in a short time frame — Pt Ajoy’s performance was all about thehraav (stability). But while his performance was technically sound, it didn’t showcase the complexities of the system he is so capable of and used to put out once.
What stood out, however, was the father-daughter jugalbandi that was the finale of the performance. Despite the difference in their pitch, the two managed well. Their set opened with a short taraana in Yaman. A Bahadur Ali Khan composition, the performance was simple, refined and precise. This was followed by a thumri in Maanj Khamaj. Hamare rang bhayo jiyera had Pt Ajoy goading Kaushiki, “Gao beta”. Kaushiki didn’t disappoint here either. She took one phrase from the thumri and sang it while touching a variety of ragas, coming back to the sam (first beat of the time cycle) in the same raag. While this was performed with much panache, Yaad piya ki aaye, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s famous thumri was also sung on audience request (Pt Ajoy learnt from Khan’s son Munnawar Ali). But it was a simple bhajan in raag Bhairavi that became the choral finale of the evening. It was also that moment during the concert where a shishya seemed to border on that line where it seemed she could surpass her guru. Naina baandh padi, an invocation, was a masterstroke in the end that showcased clean lines and a lot of finesse. Even Pt Ajoy gaped at his daughter sometimes, surprised at the ascents and descents she achieved.
By 10.30 pm, the concert had already gone on for four hours, with audience members not wanting to budge. The “forced” end, however, was followed by a standing ovation by those present, who will remember the concert in the times to come.
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