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Kaushiki Chakrabarty Desikan and Partha Desikan delight Atlanta

Shahbaz Hussain, Partha Desikan, Kaushiki Chakrabarty Desikan,
and Brajeswar Mukherjee enjoy Atlanta’s hospitality after the concert.

Kaushiki Chakrabarty Desikan and
Partha Desikan delight Atlanta


By Amitava Sen

Atlanta has had the privilege of hearing Kaushiki Chakrabarty Desikan perform with her father, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, on several occasions, notably at the Georgia World Congress Center during the Banga Sammelan of 2002. Since then we have heard of her meteoric rise, and her performance this Sunday, June 16th, gave us ample proof.

Given only a short notice, a sizeable audience of about one hundred Indian classical music lovers gathered at the Swanton Amphitheatre in the Holiday Inn in Decatur and were regaled with a scintillating presentation of Hindustani classical and semi-classical vocal music by Kaushiki and her husband Partha Desikan. The artists enjoyed the ambience of the small and comfortable auditorium, which was sponsored by Salim Jetha, a long-time aficionado of classical music in Atlanta. It is noteworthy that the sound system, set up by Raktim Sen, was flawless, doing justice to the level of the performance.

The early evening concert began with Partha Desikan’s rendition of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s bandishes in raga Bhupali, in vilambit ektal and drut teental, followed by a tarana. Partha, nurtured as a Sangeet Research Academy scholar by Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and winner of several awards early in his career, proved that he was truly worthy of carrying on his tradition.

Kaushiki Chakrabarty Desikan then began with raga Madhuvanti. Kaushiki elected to perform the same bandishes as in her most acclaimed album “Pure” after which she won the BBC Radio 3 “World Music Award (Asia/Pacific)” in 2005: “shaam bhaee, Ghanashyam nahi aye” in vilambit ektal, and “kaahe man karo, sakhiri ab” in drut teental. This evening, her layakari and taans were excellent and the rendition even superior to that in the album, with able support on the harmonium by Brajeswar Mukherjee, and on the tabla by Shahbaz Hussain.

After a short intermission, Kaushiki sang a dadra in Mishra Pilu, “jiya mora na lage,” a romantic, pining song that touches the soul. This had several melodic flourishes without rhythmic accompaniment, each crafted with originality and rendered with crystal-clear precision.

Partha followed with a thumri–Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s “yaad piya ki aaye” in raga Asaveri. This was the first time he had sung it on stage. Shahbaz Hussain, who comes from the same family as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali, commented that he remembered the Ustad singing this cheez, and it was his great pleasure to perform with Partha and Kaushiki who are carrying on that great tradition of Patiala gayaki. Shahbaz, who trained under several great tabla players in the Delhi and Punjab baaz, including Ustad Allah Rakha, provided very good support. He had excellent rapport with the vocalists, and showed his wonderful dexterity and layakari, without breaking the continuity and melodic ambience of the vocal music.

Kaushiki and Partha then rendered a bhajan, “kashta harana teri naam Ram ho,” as a duet. Speaking to the audience, they revealed they had a hard time deciding what to sing, because they seldom sing together. Partha joked that he hoped they would not break into a fight on stage–but he had won that decision! Towards the end of the bhajan, Brajeswar Mukherjee, who accompanied on the harmonium, was persuaded to join in with his voice. He has been training under Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty as well for ten years, and has a clear and velvety voice. The audience enjoyed the combination, and it was obvious the artists were relaxed and enjoying the performance as well.

On audience request, the three sang another bhajan together, “mai to sanwar ke rang raachi,” and a Bengali song of Ajoy Chakrabarty, “tumi shurey shurey ogo” to end the concert.

Kakali Bandopadhyay, as emcee, introduced the artists and thanked the individuals who came together to arrange this concert at such short notice.

We hope Kaushiki and Partha will come again and again to Atlanta, and give us such delightful performances for many years to come!