String and song

Venkatesan Srikanth
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CHAT Carnatic musicians Ranjani and Gayatri on the transition from violin to vocal and the recently-concluded Margazhi season. Venkatesan Srikanth

Ranjani and Gayatri
Ranjani and Gayatri

Their music can be described as a fine blend of voices, perfection of sruti, powerful voice control, and impeccable aesthetics. They deeply experience and enjoy what they sing. It has a mass appeal that ranges from laymen to connoisseurs. Carnatic vocalists Ranjani and Gayatri are “sought-after” artists. Initially, they started learning violin from Prof. T.S. Krishnaswami in Mumbai, where they were brought up. Soon they began to give violin duet concerts, establishing themselves as top-class violinists. After shifting base to Chennai in 1993, the sisters came under the tutelage of renowned vocalist and guru P.S. Narayanaswamy. They started giving vocal concerts since 1997 and established themselves in this sphere too. The duo was in the Capital recently for a performance. They took time to answer questions on a variety of topics. Excerpts:

The Chennai music season has just ended. How many concerts did you take up in this season?

Ranjani: We tried to limit the number of concerts to what we believe is a reasonably optimum number, say, eight to 10. It is a challenge to bring in freshness, creativity and a special magical experience to a concert every time, apart from keeping our voices intact during the Margazhi weather.

How was the music season to you?

Gayatri: This time too we had a wonderful run. It was a great joy to craft new RTPs (ragam-tanam-pallavis) in melakarta ragas, consciously avoiding the ghana ragas. The ragas that we chose included the familiar ones, like Chakravakam and Subhapantuvarali, and relatively rare vivadhi ragas like Kanthamani and Nasikabhoosani. There were also three or four new viruthams, and a new abhang that we set music to.

Do you also give violin recitals?

Ranjani: The long hours of practice that we put in as children and teenagers have really helped us. We discovered this in a recent concert during the season. We had to play a violin duet in the last minute as Gayatri had a throat infection. Initially, we were nervous. However, as the concert unfolded we realised that we hadn’t lost the touch.

How do you select the verses for your viruthams?

Gayatri: We select the verses in a way that it flows into the song that follows.

What is your advice to youngsters learning Carnatic music?

Gayatri: We share with youngsters the precept that we hold dear, i.e., to deeply enjoy the process of learning music for its own sake, and never to cloud the minds with any other consideration. Discovering music is a reward by itself.

Venkatesan Srikanth



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