Sriranjani Santhanagopalan wanted to pursue microbiology till she realised music was her calling. This promising young, musician says she is in peaceful co-existence with forces without and the music within
Sriranjani Santhanagoplan is a musician one has to take seriously. Daughter of the Carnatic maestro Neyveli Santhanagoplan, this young artiste with the right attitude towards Carnatic music, had other plans for her future till she recognized the power of music within her. Articulate and talented, Sriranjani perceives that music is gruelling work and there are no shortcuts.
You are a product of this new age -- technology, social media, education etc etc. But considering that your father is a Carnatic maestro, I’m sure it was not possible to wish tradition away. For a good part of your childhood, your relationship with these things was a cursory one -- but when it turned serious what were the kind of negotiations you had to make? Did you have to re-vision your future plans?
Carnatic music has been an integral part of my life ever since I was born. I grew up in a house that is always ringing with music, visited by musicians and music lovers and the very household was run by a father who is a Carnatic music legend and a mother who is a musician herself. My school identified me by my musical talent (to my consternation, then!) no matter how well I did in academics. Therefore, my education, technology and all the other things lived in peaceful co-existence with the Carnatic musician in me. Of course, I did not consider making Carnatic music my way of life back then because I was set on doing something along the lines of microbiology which I deceived myself into believing was my passion. But when things took a different turn and I found myself taking it up seriously, it was like a wake up call. All I had to do was realise that it is time to start relishing what was offered to me on a silver platter.
You took music seriously after that "chamber concert". How did you start training yourself? What was your father's mode? Did you begin to see him differently in each of those roles -- as father, as teacher?
Since my formal training in Carnatic music started very late(when i was 17), I knew that I had to work doubly hard since there was a lot to learn in a lot less time. Apart from learning new kritis, I placed a lot of importance on the manodharma aspect of Carnatic music. My classes with my guru used to be centred around ragam, neraval, swaram, ragam thanam pallavi and viruttam singing. Apart from these, we used to discuss musical mathematics over dinner or during tea time. I consider myself lucky to have a musical genius for a father since I get to hog all his limited free time to educate myself musically. That he is a loving father and an invaluable guru are like two sides of a coin. They come together and that’s how I see him.
What is your own practice regimen? Do you also believe in listening to a lot of music? From whom do you draw inspiration?
As far as my practice regimen goes, I strive to follow what I learned from my father, the undying motto — “Start the day with music, fill the day with music, end the day with music.” My activities for the day are filled with yoga, morning akara practice, learning new songs, revising old ones, listening to concerts, reading music-related books, managing concerts, drawing out concert plans, teaching etc. Sometimes I find myself wishing there was more than 24 hrs in a day. And yes, I do believe in listening to a lot of music. If I had an entire day to myself, I would listen to music for half the day and practice the for the rest of the day. Needless to say I draw inspiration from listening to good music.
The mood for Indian classical music is upbeat. There are so many sabhas in India and abroad, a huge number of listening public, even online, and plenty of concerts happening everywhere. In such an environment, it is very easy for a musician to turn complacent. What do you think keeps an individual musician grounded? Where does introspection and self evaluation come in?
I think I speak for all young musicians like me when I say that the current carnatic music scenario offers a lot of opportunities for us to perform and as such be involved in carnatic music activities like interviews, workshops, online projects, reality shows, recording for cds etc. This being the state of affairs, I think that it is important that we take care not to be overwhelmed or stifled or most importantly, to not let complacency seep into our systems while being involved in these activities. It is mandatory that we remind ourselves that each one of these is just another learning experience and definitely not the end of anything. Learning, constant practice and self-evaluation should be an ongoing process. It is our duty to respect this as a divine, timeless art rather than treat this as some kind of job that we can make money out of or as a casual hobby.