Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Rejuvenating the legacy in music

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Tejal Sinha

Having been born into a family of musicians, Kaushiki Chakraborty is much more than just a classical vocalist. While most toddlers love playing with toys, Kaushiki was interested in music. In her illustrious career, she has lent her voice to a number of Hindi, Bengali, and South Indian films.

A ten-day music concert featuring legendary Indian artists was recently held in Hyderabad to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary week of Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Fatehgarh, known as Lalaji—the founder of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission. The Pioneer quickly connected with the virtuoso, who opened up about creative challenges, being compared with the veterans, the Indian Classical music scene, and more.

Being the torchbearer of the Patiala Gharana tradition that was popularised by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Kaushiki feels that creative challenges are a process of growth. “Creative challenges are very personal for an artist and very difficult to put into words. They are a part of the process of growth. As an artist, when you grow, you go through transitions, and there are many phases of transitions. You break yourself and rebuild your craft, and every time you redefine yourself, you position yourself apart from it. So I think it’s a constant process. It is not something that has happened in the past and would not happen. It’s a constant, throbbing, growing discipline. Whichever way I am perceived now has nothing to do with my personal journey of growing as a musician. Creative challenges are many, and they keep happening. That’s how it is and should be. It’s a healthy way to develop. When you listen to your 5-year-old’s music, you think, “This is not how I want to sing this song again if I get a chance; I would reinterpret that song and rag in a different way,”, which is my state of mind at the current moment.”

They say that being mentally prepared for a performance is just as important as being physically prepared. However, when we asked the artiste about her take on the same, she said, “Mental preparation is not just for a performance, I would say. I always say that the music is not the sound that you produce. Before that, it’s the state of mind that you’re in. When we learn and when we do our riyaz, we also work on the state of mind, which then translates into the music that we perform. Your state of mind and being has a huge impact on how you translate that into music because music is ultimately the transition between who you are and who you are becoming.”

While most musicians prefer to rehearse before the final performance, Kaushiki thinks otherwise. “We don’t rehearse the performance, we prepare ourselves as musicians, which takes years of very persistent training, practice, and preparation, but you do not prepare for a particular performance. We don’t rehearse, but it’s the daily “riyaz”. Our performance is absolutely impromptu, improvised, and created on the spot. As I said, the state of mind plays a very important role, we don’t rehearse before a performance, but I think we prepare ourselves for every performance that’s coming up,” enthused the dulcet artiste, for whom music is an expression of life. For her, maintaining a balance among all the elements is an ideal performance.

Kaushiki has been revered for experimenting with her singing, which she believes comes from a great deal of comfort with music. Being one of the most sought-after voices, Kaushiki has been compared to many veteran female singers, but she remains unaffected and says, “I wouldn’t want to be compared with anyone because I’m too small and have always worshipped senior musicians who have inspired me through my journey and who I have learned so much from watching, understanding, and trying to decode their thought process, how they would think. I would consider them a guide; I would rather consider them a guru figure in the journey of learning music. I don’t think you can ever compare a junior student’s music to that of a senior practitioner.It’s unfair, but I see where they come from—the audience or the critics—when they compare. I think they want to find a point of reference. Rather than comparing, they want to relate. As a student of music, I would want to appreciate and devote myself to respecting their music rather than comparing myself with theirs.”

Indian classical music has always been around for over several centuries. However, classical music had faded away a few years ago, with young people becoming more interested in pop songs and other genres. But now, it looks like the Indian classical music scene is back, where many youngsters are much inclined towards the genre. And even Kaushiki couldn’t stop herself from agreeing to this.

“About 15 years ago, there was a media frenzy claiming that no young people were attending Indian Classical Music concerts and that no one was interested in it.I’m very happy that now it’s changed, and the fact that it’s changed at a time when I’m singing makes me happier and more proud of the time that I belong to. Many youngsters are taking a lot of interest in taking it as a career option, learning it, following it, coming to the concert, and getting a lot of inspiration and enthusiasm that I see around these youngsters, which is very inspiring. This ensures that this craft will thrive in the future because if the younger generations do not take an interest, it will be as if you are sowing a seed that you will only water, and there will be no one to care for it after you. My generation is in a beautiful space musically because we carry forward a legacy and we are connected to traditions.”

Apparently, there are sacrifices behind every success. But according to Kaushiki, “I would rather say contribution. Sacrifice is sometimes seen as a negative thing, but my parents, my guru, my family, my in-laws, my husband, my son, and myself have all put in our best effort so that music can happen. Everyone has done and not done so many things so that music can happen. Sacrifice only speaks of things that people have not done, but they have done so much more. I strongly believe that everyone has done so much with such an open heart and love that it has given me the life that I live now. I am indebted and thankful to God the Almighty for giving me such a beautiful purpose in life. And for every single person who came into my life.”

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