‘Classical music for me is the sky, a space to explore’
Hindustani classical vocalist and a recipient of many national and international awards, Kaushiki Chakraborty enthralled a receptive audience with her performance in Lucknow, on Friday, at the Kalamandapam. The concert was held to celebrate a unique vocal-instrumental fusion: Melodies of the Maestro, with the vocalist, who calls herself a devotee of Begum Akhtar. In an interaction with Hindustan Times, the artist dwelt upon her journey in the classical music world and her inspirations. Edited excerpts of the interview:
Q Born in a family with classical music greats like your father Pt Ajoy Chakraborty and your uncle Pt Sanjay Chakraborty, how did your musical journey begin?
A Yes, music has been my oxygen since I was born, and not just because of my father and uncle, but also my mother, Chandana Chakraborty, and everyone in my family. Some are professionals and some are not. I think that contributed a great deal to the environment and the family. Also, I grew up at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, where there were some of the greatest musicians that our country has produced. That entire environment nourished my music.
Q You belong to the Patiala Gharana, popularised by the inimitable Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali. Does it take a special effort to be part of a gharana mostly represented through men?
A Any gharana or style, does not have a necessary connection to gender. I think the gender finds its way of expressing its strength and beauty within a given framework. So, we have had Parveen Sultana Ji who follows the Patiala tradition only, and we’ve had Meera Upadhaya from Bengal, who is also a Patiala Gharana exponent. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we haven’t had female representation within the Patiala framework. But yes, the person who signifies and personifies Patiala style, Bade Ghulam Ali Sahab, his impact has been so big that we have followed him. But, I have never thought of the style as a masculine style.
Q How does it feel to perform in the land of Begum Akhtar?
A I love singing thumri that is why Begum Akhtar Ji becomes so relevant in her own land, in Lucknow. I have been a huge admirer and to the extent of calling myself a devotee of Begum Akhtar Ji. And the passion, love and commitment with which she sang, and the honesty of her voice, she has made a great impact on all those hearts and given us some unbelievably memorable moments. As a student of music, I really don’t think that one can learn and replicate that style. We can never copy it. Because it’s not the musical phrases that made Begum Akhtar ‘Begam Akhtar’.
Q You have also experimented with light classical music. Is it pure experimentation or you feel an urge to go beyond classical boundaries.
A Classical music for me is not a boundary and so there is no urge to go beyond it. Classical music for me has been the sky, a space to explore. It’s a pure urge of exploration of a creative mind that takes me anywhere not within anything, not beyond anything. Anything musical that has connected with my heart, I have believed in it, and when I have connected with a piece of music, I have never questioned the name or the genre of that music: not within anything and not beyond anything. Names are given by people, who, I think, believe in the names more than the sound. As a musician, I believe in the vibrations and in the frequencies that I hear when I hear a song.
Q You have sung for films too. Of the composers you have sung for, who do you feel is closest to the kind of compositions you like to sing?
A: I have not sung many Bollywood songs. So, it’s unfair on my part to comment on composers. There have been some brilliant songs from different composers and when people compose for a movie they don’t compose according to their choice. They compose according to the demand of the story, the script and the movie. It’s again unfair to say that this composer composes more semi-classical kind of songs, or that composer composes more Western songs. So, it’s all the more unfair for me to comment. I believe all of them are brilliant and they are very good in their job and that’s why they are who they are. I have never wished to sing more and more for Bollywood, but yes, if I have loved a song, I’ve sung it and that is why all those songs I’ve loved singing, I’ve performed.
6. You have also experimented with Tagore’s songs. If I request you to sing a Tagore song right now, which one will you choose?
A My first reference for a Tagore song is my mother. She sings Tagore songs beautifully. So, of the songs I have heard from her, are some of my favourite songs. ‘Tumaar Dulaar Khular Duani’ is of course, a song I love much and ‘Chiro Shaukha hey’ is, one song I think is I’ve cried to.