Calcutta Sisters talk about their love for Tamil

Carnatic singers Chitra and Kala

Chennai: Right from getting a pat from violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman to touching the hearts of Bombay Sisters, the musical journey for Carnatic singers Chitra and Kala, fondly known as the ‘Calcutta Sisters,’ has always been top-notch.

Residents of Madanandapuram, the siblings have immense love for Tamil. “Wherever we go for kutchery, we make sure we keep Tamil songs/bhajans in the frontline, and we love singing Bharathiyar songs. We, in fact, have done theme-based kutcheries, in which we have sung this great poet’s songs for nearly two hours straight. Tamil songs are welcomed with so much love across the globe.”

For this Tamil New Year, the musicians share their successful musical journey, their proudest moments and how they marked their love for the language through their overseas performances.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Both my sister and I joined Carnatic vocal classes that were conducted by Shrimathi Kamakshi Balasubramanium in the 1970s. “Even today, we vividly remember our first stage performance at the Thyagaraja Utsavam in Calcutta. I was in my 5th standard then. We had absolutely no stage fear and, in fact, it was thrilling to hear the claps of the audience. Even as kids, we knew that music was going to be our main profession,” chuckles Kala.

HANDLING CHALLENGES
“It was not easy for us to pursue music as a career. So many factors other than our own passion mattered – family life, the location of our husbands’ professional occupation and our children’s education. But luckily, we are gifted with an understanding family that had always placed our passion on top. Even during the period when we had to live abroad, we did not miss out on a single Marghazhi season in Chennai,” they say with pride.

CHERISHING MOMENTS
Sharing one of their proudest moments, the sisters say, “In the three decades of our musical journey, we have received a number of accolades. Perhaps the most touching among them was when we were in our high school. We had the opportunity sing for the great violinist Lalgudi Jayaraman. We sang his varnam in Neelambari ragam. He was visibly pleased with our rendition as it was considered to be a tough one. He said we were gifted and rewarded us with an encyclopedia. That is an unforgettable moment for both of us.”

“There are many more incidents to quote. Once we had the Sangita Kalanidhis’ Bombay Sisters sit through our entire concert at Thiruvarur; it was simply thrilling and inspiring.”

OVERSEAS PERFORMANCES
It was a very pleasant experience to be patronised abroad. Our concert at the Indian Cultural Centre, Bangkok, was unique because the majority of the audience was non-Indians, and they appeared to be spell-bound throughout the performance.

PRESENT CARNATIC SCENARIO
Carnatic music shall only grow because music as an art-form is very essential to the people of our country. The growing popularity is evident in the increase in number of sabhas and concerts that are taking place in our country.

FUTURE PLANS
Currently, Kala is running a music school, teaching students from different countries. So far, there are 55 students from six countries who are learning in person and some through online from her. She is also planning to expand it to facilitate many more students. The website www.carnatikala.com will be up and running very soon.

AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
* Sangeetha Sarathy Award by Sri Mata Samarpanam Trust, Chennai.
* Sirantha Sevai Virudhu by Kanchi Kamakotipeeta Karnataka Sangha Seva Trust, Thiruvarur.
* Certificate of Appreciation from Kunnakudi Raga Research Centre, Chennai.
* Honoured by Indian Ambassador at the Indian Cultural Centre, Bangkok.

 

NT Bureau