Tonight, June 25 at 7:30 PM there’s a rare chance to see a rising star in Indian music when sarod player Rajrupa Chowdhury makes an appearance at the Chhandayan Center for Indian Music at 4 West 43rd Street. She’s joined onstage by brilliant tabla player Samir Chatterjee; cover is $25.
Her album Evening Ragas came out in 2017 and is streaming at youtube. In general, she’s a very precise player who opts for subtlety, thoughtfulness and an often disarming directness in lieu of shredding. She plays raga shyham kalyan first, her lingering alap peppered with brief, restless phrasing and a persistent, lingering angst. As the music drifts into an anxious, anticipatory lull on the wings of Chowdhury’s gentle, questioning riffs, it’s nothing short of Romantic. From there she makes the lightning volleys of a lithely waltzing interlude seem easy. Her slow, graceful theme on the way out is a striking contrast beneath the flurries overhead.
Parimal Chakraborty joins her on tabla on raga rageshree: reduced to lowest terms, this 34-minute performance is a love song, sometimes coy, sometimes playful, with moments of exuberance and joy. Tantalizingly brief scampering runs, expectantly insistent melismas, bracingly shivery clusters and moments of subtle humor each figure in turn.
If you’d like to hear what she’s done since then, here’s a clip of her playing raga jaunpuri solo a couple of years ago. She uses the entirety of the fretboard, beginning with the lows and a suspenseful spaciousness: it’s stately and on the somber side. Moving from her meticulously steady attack, she veers away with sudden, breathtakingly impetuous intensity. And then does it again. Machete tremolo-picking, a devious glissando…and suddenly it’s over!
And in her take of raga bhairavi, from a year after she made the album, she builds a tender, mystical ambience, then follows a joyously, light-fingered, dancing trajectory. There’s plenty more of her up at youtube to inspire you for the show tonight. If you miss this one, the Chhandayan Center has resumed their regular series of mostly-bimonthly concerts which typically pair established artists with up-and-coming talent, often from the organization’s nationwide network of music academies.