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Kaushiki Desikan or Kaushiki Chakrabarty

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Kaushiki Desikan or Kaushiki Chakrabarty

Kaushiki Desikan Kaushiki Chakrabarty (née Chakrabarty) (Bengali: চক্রবর্তী) (born 1980) is a prominent Indianclassical vocalist.

Chakrabarty was born 1980 in Kolkata, India. She is the daughter of Chandana Chakraborty and the renowned Indian classical singer Ajoy Chakraborty. At age seven, she started learning Indian classical music at the academy of Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, joining later ITC Sangeet Research Academy.

In 2002, she graduated from the Jogamaya Devi College, an affiliated undergraduate women’s college of the historic University of Calcutta, in Kolkata with a first degree in philosophy.[1]

Kaushiki has participated in many major concerts, including the Dover Lane Music Conference, the ITC Sangeet Sammelan in India, the Spring Festival of Music (California), and Parampara Program (Los Angeles).

She is married to Partha Desikan.

Awards and recognitions

  • Jadu Bhatta (1995)
  • Outstanding Young Person (2000)
  • BBC Award (2005)

Kaushiki was blessed with the rare gift of a melodious voice and extreme musical potential which was given shape by her Guru, parents and her unflinching practice and dedication throughout the years.

At Sangeet Research Academy, her birth place, she grew up amidst the greatest stalwarts of music. Her musical talent was noticed even before she was a toddler, as she could reproduce any musical note which she was asked to sing. Her mother Smt. Chandana Chakrabarty an accomplished singer herself, took up the task of training Kaushiki in the initial stages, thus being her first Guru. Since music was in her genes, the task of further enhancement of her musical understanding and knowledge was taken over by none other than her illustrious father Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty. Following the age old tradition Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty took Kaushiki to his mentor and guide, Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh, who accepted her as a “ Ganda Bandh Shagird” (Formal Disciple).

Kaushiki’s exceptional talent was ably groomed under the magical tutelage of Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh. It was the influence of Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh which instilled in little Kaushiki’s heart that the path to musical excellence was not only technical brilliance but philosophical realization and devotion.

Young artistes dominated the night-long Sabrang Sangeet Sammelan at Kala Mandir on December 19. Among the young performers was Kaushiki Desikan, whose recital was the third of the night. Singing khayals in Raga Malkauns in the grand style originating from Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, she paid a fitting tribute to the Ustad. The vilambit khayal based on the Sabrang composition, Koyeliya bole, opened with movements structured in the masterly Bade Ghulam style. There were the classic undulating bahlawa patterns, laced with the subtle downward glides typical of the Ustad. After striking the taar saptak sadaj (tonic) for the first time, Kaushiki unleashed a fast taan that carried the mukhra on its tail: practically a Bade Ghulam signature!

- Nilaksha Gupta, The Telegraph, January 2008

The night started well with very impressive khayals in Shyam Kalyan by Kaushiki Desikan. She developed raga phrases well in the first quarter of the vilambit khayal and launched a series of long and fast taans after singing the antara. Some of these touched the ati tar sadaj with ease. There were rhythmic sargams, sargam taans, and fast bol-taans as well. The drut khayaal was an occasion for further excellent sargam patterns and taankari.

- Nilaksha Gupta, The Telegraph, February 2008

Kaushiki Desikan started the evening with a lovely rendition of Raga Bageshree and enthralled with a heartwarming Saraswati vandana. She ended with a piya ki bole na bol papihara, a melodious bandish about love and longing. “Today is a special day for me as I’m performing in front of my parents afer a very long time,” smiled the daughter of vocal guru Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty.

-         The Telegraph, March 2008

Indian vocal recordings tend to appeal to South Asian audiences more than Western ones. Maybe it’s the language barrier (although many Indians tell me they can usually understand very little of a vocal performance) or the heavy-going mannerisms that much of the vocal music utilises. However, Kaushiki (she seems to have dropped her surname Chakrabarty for this disc) is someone who breaks those barriers down in an instant. The daughter of the celebrated singer Ajoy Chakrabarty, Kaushiki won the Asia category of the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in 2005. This recording shows how deserved that award was.

Aged only 27, Kaushiki has a wonderfully pure and focused voice that seems to stop time in the slow alap of the opening dhrupad in the evening ‘Raga Poorvi’. This is followed by a pair of more flamboyant khayals and then an alteration of South and North Indian vocal forms. The South Indian ‘Thillana’, with violin and clay pot, is fantastically playful; ‘Dadra’ is a romantic composition of her father’s with heartfelt sarangi playing, depicting the lovers Krishna and Radha during the Holi festival of colours, and the final ‘Bhajan’ is a stately prayer to the elephant-god Ganesh with violin, featuring her father on harmonium. This first disc – recorded at Sense’s studio in Gujarat – is particularly appealing for the range and variety of its shortish pieces and the diverse instrumentation.

The other two discs are from a live recording made at the Saptak Festival in January. Kaushiki gives a magisterial performance of ‘Raga Rageshri’, with a long, drawn-out musical architecture. After the short alap, the khayal is slow and sustained, although the pace increases towards the end. There are two ‘Bandish’ which include some extraordinary vocal displays. Often these can sound showy, or just silly, but Kaushiki manages to keep them integral to the internal energy of the performance. The closing ‘Thumri’ is relaxed and gorgeously lyrical: perfect for winding down.

Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty is one of the most talented and versatile vocalists of India. Born in 1953, he showed his extraordinary promise in music at a very young age. He took his initial training from his father, Shri Ajit Chakrabarty. Later he took his music lessons from Shri Kanai Das Bairagi in 1960. His music career flourished under the guidance of Pandit Gyan Prakash Ghosh. He joined the Rabindra Bharati University where he stood First Class First in both BA and MA. His score in MA is still unsurpassed. In 1971, he became a disciple of Ustad Munawar Ali Khan, the son of the great Patiala Maestro Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan. Due to his love and dedication for music, Ajoy ji is now regarded as an authentic and leading exponent of the Patiala Gharana.

Ajoy ji’s outstanding and brilliant performances enabled him to be honored with several awards. He is the first recipient of the ‘Kumar Gandharva’ award, the most prestigious national award for the best musician under forty-five years of age. He is the first classical vocalist of India who received the President’s Award for the best male playback singer in 1990 and many State Awards for film songs. He is the first Fellow to receive a Gold Medal from the Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, a premier music institution of India devoted to the promotion of classical music in India and abroad. He is the first Indian classical vocalist to be invited by the government of Pakistan to perform in Pakistan.

Over fifty LP, cassette, and CD albums published in India, Pakistan, Europe and USA endear him even to those listeners who do not understand the language of the lyrics.

Bharat Ratna and Oscar winner, Satyajit Ray, who was a regular listener of Ajoy Chakrabarty observed that of all the classical artists he had heard, Ajoy is the only vocalist who knows where and when to stop and he is sure to go far.

Padma Bhusan, Desikottam Guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh, an all time great sangeet guru who taught students of three successive generations, maintained that Ajoy is the best of all his students as he is the only artist who brings his highly educated attitude to bear upon his music.

Press comments on Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty:

  • “Ajoy Chakrabarty is something of a mioracle of natural gifts and tireless self-culture.” — The Hindu
  • “Ajoy’s music is beyond criticism.” — The Statesman
  • [On the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of India's Independence at Carnegie Hall] “Ajoy Chakrabarty held a rare summit meeting.” — The New York Times
  • “Ajoy Chakrabarty has become the principal transmitter of the style of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.” — The Boston Globe
  • “Vocalist Ajoy Chakrabarty and his Ambitious Dream: Chakrabarty is trying to do what no one has done before in India. He is making a systematic attempt to seek the best child musical talent and have them trained and guided by a top-class vocalist — himself.” — India West Magazine (California)

Ajoy Chakrabarty is the founder of ‘Srutinandan’, a school of music, located in Kolkata – India. The aim of Shrutinandan is to impart practical knowledge of the basics of all forms of Indian vocal music to musically gifted young children in order that they may realise their potential as worthy artists who will perpetuate the rich musical tradition of India.

Born in 1980 in the campus of Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, Kaushiki Chakrabarty is now a scholar of the academy. The gurus of the Academy and the members of its Expert Committe repose a great hope in Kaushiki and have blessed her for a glorious musical future.

By the grace of God, she could reproduce any musical and rhythmic phrase when she was only two years old. Kaushiki’s mother, Chandna Chakrabarty was her first guru and very soon, Kaushiki became a “ganda-bandh” sagird (disciple) of her father’s guru, Jnan Prakash Ghosh according to India’s ancient system of guru-shishya parampara. On account of the old age of her guru and with his consent, she resumed her training under her father, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty.

She performed and was very well appreciated when she visited a number of places abroad in USA, Canada and Europe along with her father from 1987. In an interview with ‘The Telegraph’ in October 1996, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the senior and legendary classical vocalist of India maintained, “Kaushiki Chakrabarty is one of the very few classical vocalists who will make a mark in the 21st century; she has really a very bright future if she practices hard to realize her great potentiality.”

As a debutante, Kaushiki has earned unqualified eclaim from maestros like Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Asad Ali Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Vijay Kumar Kichlu. These musical luminaries sincerely believe that Kaushiki with her promise and zeal will in the new millenium establish herself as one of the finest musicians if she persists in her unflinching riaz.

Press comments on Kaushiki Chakrabarty:

  • “Teenage prodigy’s dazzling recital — Kaushiki Chakrabarty provided the curtain raiser to the three day 27th annual ITC Sangeet Sammelan at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Her honeyed voice maintains a broad open ‘aakar’ giving no quarter to any kind of curb or repression without ever lessening its euphony or appeal.” — The Hindu (March 20, 1998)
  • “A voice is born — like father like daughter Kaushiki Chakrabarty: Kaushiki’s performance, however, put all the raised eyebrows back in their place. That she has been groomed rather well by her father, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Sangeet Research Academy was beyond doubt what was also apparent was her undeniable talent. That with the choice of songs helped clinch the evening for her. Along with the rest of the audience, the 80-year old maestro Ustad Allah Rakha Khan spontaneously stood up to applaud her performance. What more can a 16-year old ask for?” — Intian Express (March 5, 1998)
  • “Kaushiki Chakrabarty’s depiction of raga Malkaus was the most enjoyable part of the night-long session…the young singer exce;s in style and form” — The Telegraph (August 28, 1998)

Awards and honors:

  • 1999: Memento from the Governor of West Bengal after her concert at the Governor House (Raj Bhavan) Kolkata on September 11, 1999.
  • 2000: Outstanding performer award for the Dover Lane ‘Nabin Pratibha’ (New Talent) series.
  • 2000: Outstanding Young Person Award for the year 2000 for her success in the field of music from Calcutta Rotary Club.
  • 2002: Priviledge and honor of performing in the Golden Jubilee of Dover Lane Music Conference.
  • 2002: Akash Barsho Samman from Akash Bangla (Sky-B) — a TV media of the Government of West Bengal.