Last Saturday's concert at Sri Ganesha featured Kaushiki Chakrabarty, a young singer who won a big prize from the BBC last year. I'm not a great judge of where the musicians who come to Sri Ganesha fall out in relative prestige, but I'm guessing she is one of the bigger people to perform there. She appeared with her husband, also a singer, named Parthasarathy Desikan. They both have studied with Chakrabarty's father.
She is a tremendous singer. Particularly impressive singing fast and precisely, through all sorts of patterns that seemed fresh and surprising, and she could run all over a huge range. At each point in a long phrase, the notes were perfectly distinct and perfectly placed. Listening to her makes you so aware of how this music is analogous to extremely finely detailed ornamental drawing, with complex patterns and elaborations that weave together to cover expanses of space in wonderful colors.
So acknowledging the extremely high quality of the singing, the concert was not all it could be. She was distracted by the sound system, made several comments about not being able to hear herself in the monitors. I imagine sound in the Temple hall is a challenge. It's not a concert hall, but more of an all-purpose room with a low ceiling. The result for Chakrabarty was a performance that seemed disjointed. The flights of technical brilliance were delivered in bursts that seems to stand separately, rather than building upon each other. The more sustained passages were sometimes strained, and again did not achieve the kind of spiritual intensity I have experienced with other vocalists in this room.
Desikan, for his part (the majority of the concert consisted of two separate performances by each singer, alone with the accompaniment of harmonium and tabla), sings more from power, a very strong voice. At critical points he came across with a jarring abruptness, hitting a loud, intense, and high sustained passage in a way that jumped out. His singing did not always lead up to those passages and let them grow in intensity. I think that more integrated approach produces a stronger emotional sensation.
At the end, Chakarabarty and Desikan performed a duet. At times during this section her voice was so sweet I wished it would go on for a long time. As concerts at Sri Ganesha go, this was pretty short at something like 2 hours (but non-stop).