One of the last of the purists, from the gharana that shaped the ati-vilambit 48-beat ektaal khayal, and the long-form Bengali thumri.
A deep-timbre voice
The raw power
Mijaz and Raagdari
The long Badhat
Her professional concert performance career spans two decades, across the major Indian Classical conferences in India, USA, Canada, UK and Central Asia.
Empaneled artist of SPICMACAY
Empaneled artist of ICCR (Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India)
A-Grade artist of All India Radio
Fellow of The Ministry of Culture, Govt. Of India
Her repertoire includes Khayal, Tap-Khayal, Tarana, Chaturang, and Indian Semi Classical music e.g. Tappa, Thumri, Patjhar, Bhajan, Jhoola, Birha, Chaiti, Kajri,Sawan and Jaad Ke Geet. She also renders Bengali Thumri and Bengali RagPradhan, compositions which are quintessential Kotali Gharana items.
Pandit Manas Chakraborty, son of Sangeetacharya Tarapada Chakraborty who was the founder of the Kotali Gharana, trained her for 25 years. Ruchira also completed her Masters in Economics from Jadavpur University.
On her mezzo-soprano voice
....I have an unusually deep voice, and when I was 12 or 13, it was not flexible at all. Because of my tone, seniors used to call the pint-sized me, the mini Gangubai Hangal. My GuruJi, against everyone's negative predictions when I was little, used all his knowledge of training the vocal chord and adjoining muscles, to turn things around, and made it an asset, an almost operatic chest voice in the upper registers. I also became able to produce the fine kan-swars( touch-notes) in a fast vakra-taan. In a thicker voice this is much harder to pull off than in the lighter, mellower female voices that are more in vogue. [ Excerpted ]
Some Worldwide Performances
On not-so-or'nary performances
....Once Ali Akbar Khan saheb called me over to perform at the AACM, San Rafael. And asked me to sing Raga Loom, which is Baba Alauddin's creation, and his bandish had already travelled to Kotali Gharana through my DadaGuru. After my concert, he told me "Amar shorir aar bhalo nei. Tumi amar college e classical vocal shekhao." ( I am unwell...so please take over the classical vocal section of my college). He called up my GuruJi to ask for his permission. My GuruJi said yes. Despite the allure, I said no. For me staying outside Kolkata, away from the environment of GuruJi's house, was unthinkable.[ Excerpted ]
Ruchira founded “Paramparik”, a non-profit charitable organization, in 2001. Paramparik has helped over 8000 sons and daughters of the marginal farmers and daily laborers of West Bengal, to become doctors, engineers, teachers and nurses.
Paramparik has held the prestigious Paramparik Annual Conference in Kolkata since 2001. Almost all the leading artists of Hindustani Classical have graced the Paramparik stage, and a few Carnatic musicians as well.
Paramparik has also started Paramparik Sessions - Kolkata’s first all-vocal, yearly classical conference, to be held in March-April time frame.
On Students and Learning
....Being a great musician or a poet cannot be the locus of a human life, but these are some of the stepping stones towards inculcating humility, philanthropy, empathy and a broad worldview. That worldview actually helps in moulding the creative musical brain, and the poetic mind. Enjoy and feel the world, the blade of grass. Read. Read a lot. Stop rote learning - talk to your music so it talks to you. Performances are the easier part (sic).[ Excerpted ]
...When it comes to Raagdari, I tell my students to do an extensive analysis of how different artists and gharanas have approached a Raga. That is a staple process in our gharana. My GuruJi taught me to objectively question everything, even himself, since that is a primary ingredient of independent thought. We have endlessly debated a particular application of a note, and such was the intellectual maturity of the man that though I was proved wrong in most cases, a couple of times ( and after we stopped talking for a couple of days ) he came back and acknowledged that my view was the correct one.
...When it comes to the authenticity of Raagdari, my first reference is my GuruJi and then Pandit Ravi Shankar. Both, extremely conscious of the grammatical boundaries of Raga music, yet both radically innovative, both polyglots and they also shared a mutual respect along these lines. This approach gives our music such a fresh and authentic mijaz, free from the dogma of mannerisms copied down the centuries. It is ironic that both died the same day, 12th of December, 2012.[ Excerpted ]
...The first and foremost attribute of our ( Kotali ) approach to music is creativity and live melodic improvisation. In my world, the musical landscape is fluid, unknown, full of magic. The artists sitting in the front row of my GuruJi's concerts would eagerly imbibe as he freely composed and sang spectacular bandishes live on stage. Each concert would mean exploring new avenues of a Raga.
...Singing the same thing again and again in fifty concerts made no sense to him, neither does it appeal to me. Without that relief of taking up the challenge of going after something unexplored, there is little enjoyment in being on stage. Picking up a raga that one has not sung in a full year, right on stage, just like checking out an old friend to see how time has moulded the dynamics, has its own rewards. Same with creating a fresh bandish in the green room that feels more appropriate for a concert scenario.[ Excerpted ]
...It is important to be in love with words and the power they wield when in the vicinity of other words. Originally folk traditions, arcane Saas-Bahu, Nandlala or Ramlala constructs have played their part in the formative years of the Indian bandishes [copied down for generations], but we have come a long way in Bengal, into more modern and abstract lyrical constructs, thanks to Tagore, then the likes of Jibanananda, Buddhadeb Basu, Shankha Ghosh, Bhaskar Chakraborty - the firebrand poets of the Bengali intellectual class.
...That gets reflected in the lyrics I create and/or like to sing. I typically sing my GuruJi's compositions, then my own ones , and then some curated traditional ones, in that order of preference. To illustrate the point with a concrete example, Ghalib is great [ Saki-Mehtaab-Jaam-Ishq iconographies], but my intellectual hunger can be fulfilled more by Faiz's latter writings and Ahmed Faraz.[ Excerpted ]
On Students and Riyaz
...We, the clan of professional musicians, have all gone through the usual grind. But I strongly encourage students to also accompany me into fine arts, literature, world music, sculpture, philosophy, Zizek and Debiprasad, Tagore and Morrison, Larry Coriyal and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, Monet and K.G.Subramaniyam, Lara Fabian and Lata Mangeshkar - because doing only riyaz or focusing on music is fine but may not produce a perceptive, creative, intellectually fully aware individual - any primer on neurobiology would affirm that fact.
On Custom vs Culture
....Bengal is lucky that among other social reformers and intellectuals of the famous Bengal Renaissance, we had Tagore, who was the bedrock of the subsequent century of intellectual maturity of the Bengali milieu. He shaped the core DNA of future Bengali, her aesthetics, finesse, philosophy, language, art and culture - quite different from the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Tagore freed up a whole population from the anarchy of rigid cultural traditions. His aesthetic eye tended to look with suspicion, the tendency of passing less changed ( read “gharanadar” ) forms of music as original ( and therefore, as if of higher value ). The reformer that he was, set the standard of musical experimentation, through pruning and regrowth. A full six or seven generations down the line, we know for sure that any biological or cultural entity that does not adapt and evolve, does not match its time, and will perish. So many art forms have come and gone with the wind, leaving their cultural offsprings to rule the space.[ Excerpted ]