She was born into a musical family. Her parents belonged to the world of music, both by passion and by profession. She was surrounded by people closely connected to Indian classical music. In her own words – “I took to learning the ‘sargam’ as spontaneously as other children learn to eat by themselves…”. Singing came to her as naturally as breathing – she is Kaushiki Chakraborty.
She started training under the able tutelage of her mother Smt. Chandana Chakraborty from early childhood; went on to train under such musical maestros as Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, apart from her father Pandit. Ajoy Chakraborty. She performed at the prestigious Dover Lane Music conference when she was barely 20. From then on, she continues to enthrall audiences with her performance in concerts, music conferences and other cultural rendezvous all over the world. She has won many awards and accolades till date, including the ‘Jadu Bhatta’ award in 1995, BBC Award for outstanding achievement in music in 2005, Sangeet Natak Academy’s ‘Ustad Bismillah Khan Puraskar’ for Hindustani Vocal Music in 2010, Aditya Birla Kalakiran Puraskar in 2013, to name a few. Being involved in the Indian Music scenario for close to two decades now, she is veteran enough to observe that more of the young talents nowadays are prone to seek the ‘quick and easy’ path to fame, rather than aspire to reach the zenith through dedicated, sincere and laborious hard work. She encourages the young musicians to find a deeper meaning to music, to connect to it with their soul. Only then music becomes the means to express yourself – your happiness and sorrow, love and longing, your emotions and aspirations.
Through the course of her journey as a performing artist so far, Kaushiki became aware of a disconcerting disparity. The male-female student ratio completely reverses when becoming a professional performer. During the training years, the number of girl students are much larger than the number of boy students. But it drastically drops when the time comes to take up music, or any form of creative art, as a profession. “The number of female performing artistes is too few even among my contemporaries” – she points out. In addition, female performing artistes are not given enough respect for their craft. Their success is never attributed solely to their talent and skill, automatically assuming that they have some parallel advantage – be it family connections, good looks or the very fact that they are women. Even in earlier times in the realm of Indian classical and semi-classical music, it was a much-practised tradition to mention the name of the composer of the ‘Khayal’ within the prose. The great exponents of the form were, understandably, male. But among the thousands of melodious ‘Thumri’ and ‘Dadra’ – which is an integral part of Indian semi-classical music, which we continue to sing and draw inspiration from even today, and which were mostly created by the courtesans for an evening ‘mehfil’ – no names can be found. Maybe because of the simple reason – that they were women, and marginalised ones, at that.
These thoughts continued to haunt Kaushiki, giving rise to anger and frustration. She wanted to change this mindset, wanted to do something about it, she wanted to rebel. Music was the only form she had – to worship, to rebel, to pray, to celebrate, to communicate. Music brought her together with a few other female performing artistes, who had the same thoughts, similar visions. Thus, “SAKHI” was formed, giving a creative shape to all the fight, all the rebellion.
SAKHI is the first-ever All-Girls’ Band of Indian Classical Music. Its purpose – to tell the story of Womanhood in the Indian psyche. Its content is classical while the approach is contemporary. Its language of storytelling is music.
SAKHI explores and celebrates every aspect, all the colours of Indian Womanhood through each of its performing pieces. Be it the mystique and power of the ‘Shakti’ – Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali; the purity and knowledge of Goddess Saraswati;
the holy and nurturing quality of Mother Ganges; the love and devotion of Radha and Meera; even the pathos, longing and melancholy of a Kanjari or courtesan – SAKHI pays tribute to those unsung Divas with equal devotion as the Devis. Each of the performances is ably supported by creating the correct ambience with the help of stage settings and lighting. Each piece purports the audience to a pure musical heaven, evoking emotions in-tune with the heartfelt performance.
The six musicians of “SAKHI” are –
Kaushiki Chakraborty (Vocal) – Disciple of her mother Smt. Chandana Chakraborty, father Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh and Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna
Nandini Shankar (Violin) – Disciple of her Grandmother Padmabhushan Dr. N. Rajan, mother Dr. Sangeetha Shankar. And, she has learnt Konnakkol from Vidhwan Shri T.S. Nandakumar.
Debopriya Chatterjee (Flute) – Disciple of her mother Smt. Krishna Chatterjee, father Sri Robin Chatterjee and Padmavibhushan Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Bhakti Deshpande (Dance) – Disciple of her mother Smt. Vidyahari Deshpande, Padmabhushan Birju Maharaj ji, and ‘Laya-Taal’ from Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar.
Sawani Talwalkar (Tabla) – Disciple of her father, Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar.
Mahima Upadhyay (Pakhawaj) – Disciple of her father Pandit Ravi Shankar Upadhyay.
SAKHI on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SAKHI-385928011571826/
In these times of moral and social degeneration, when we read about female feticide and domestic violence every day in the newspaper, hear about rape and molestation every time we switch on the television – let us hope that the endeavour of SAKHI would succeed in reminding us of our inner power – the power of Good over Evil, of Love over Hatred, of Harmony over Chaos – invoking the ‘Shakti’ within.
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