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Of sur and Sakhi

Be yourself on stage, say Sakhi, the six-member Hindustani Classical group that salutes womanhood through their music

They may just be six members, but Sakhi, the Hindustani Classical all-women band that made its Mumbai debut last month with a concert at NCPA, believes in celebrating the myriad personalities that every woman embodies.

(From left) Hamsika Iyer, Vivienne Pocha, Merlin D’Souza and Shruti B Padhye, of Indiva, during a gig at BlueFrog
(From left) Hamsika Iyer, Vivienne Pocha, Merlin D’Souza and Shruti B Padhye, of Indiva, during a gig at BlueFrog

From portraying Radha’s love and Mirabai’s devotion to taking on the fierce avatar of Kali, their pieces are rooted in Hindustani and Carnatic music. “With each piece lasting for 10 minutes, we transform into different roles and justify the diversity of womanhood.

(From left) Flautist Debbopriya Chatterjee, vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty and Nandini Shankar (violin), who form part of the band Sakhi during a perform-ance at the NCPA
(From left) Flautist Debbopriya Chatterjee, vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty and Nandini Shankar (violin), who form part of the band Sakhi during a perform-ance at the NCPA

This inspires us to take the stage every time,” says the band’s lead vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty over the phone from a city-based recording studio, who took a year to conceptualise and form the group this January.

(From left) Savani Talwalkar, Bhakti Deshpande (standing), Mahima Upadhyay, Debbopriya Chatterjee, Kaushiki Chakraborty and Nandini Shankar at a performance
(From left) Savani Talwalkar, Bhakti Deshpande (standing), Mahima Upadhyay, Debbopriya Chatterjee, Kaushiki Chakraborty and Nandini Shankar at a performance

Besides Chakraborty, the band features violinist Nandini Shankar, flautist Debbopriya Chatterjee, Savani Talwalkar (tabla) as well as Mahima Upadhyay, one of the few female pakhawaj players in the country. Interestingly, Bhakti Deshpande, a Kathak dancer, is also an integral part of this group.

“In our country, music is often divided into separate groups of instrumental, vocal, percussion as well as dance but we wanted all of this to come together in Sakhi to make it different from the rest. The biggest advantage is that we are friends, so there is harmony and that makes it easier to design and balance pieces,” reasons Chakraborty.

While one would believe that performing with an all-women’s band might add to the comfort factor, Chakraborty doesn’t think so, adding, “In an episode of MTV Coke Studio, I was part of a collaboration where all the musicians were men; I enjoyed it thoroughly. More than the gender, what matters is the calibre of the musician and how they enhance one another’s performance.”

Pointing the paradox as far as women in the performing arts are concerned, Chakraborty observes, “On one hand, we have well-established and respected female musicians and artistes but on the other hand, there are many talented youngsters with a sound training in music who don’t get help from family and society if they wish to pursue music as a career.

While we idolise female singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Parveen Sultana and Asha Bhosle as goddesses, we should also help the girl next door to pursue her dream so that we have many more names like them.” Sakhi would love to help improve the status quo for women in music.

“I would be happy and honoured if we can inspire budding women musicians, by giving them more confidence, so they can be themselves on stage, whoever they are,” she concludes, assertively.

The Sakhi set
>> Kaushiki Chakraborty (vocals)
>> Nandini Shankar (violin)
>> Debbopriya Chatterjee (flute)
>> Savani Talwalkar (tabla)
>> Mahima Upadhyay (pakhawaj)
>> Bhakti Deshpande (Kathak dance)

Music connect
The band performs diverse genres of Hindustani and Carnatic music such as khayal, thumri, dadra, chaiti, hori, kajri, tarana, thillana and bhajan.

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