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Ranjani-Gayatri: In skilled unison

In the two years since they chose to settle in Madras B. Ranjani and B. Gayatri have impr^ssed sabha secretaries and vocalists so much that they get regular offers to play as accompanists to almost all the well-known arttstes. They are the talent that Bombay has contributed to the Carnatic music world in Madras.

"We started learning in Bombay under T. S. Krishnaswamy. I began my lessons when I was six but Ranjani who is elder to me started her lessons in her ninth year," says Gayatri.

"For how many years were you Krishnaswamy's students?"

"From 1982 to 1992. He gave a great deal of importance to correct position of the palm and fingers for holding the bow, and the proper movement of the wrist for moving the bow from the holding end to the tip. He would not tolerate gripping the bow with the fingers and attached much importance to the elegance with which the bow is held. We spent merely three months in perfecting the bowing technique before we began the Sarali varisai. Next came the technique of lingering. Our teacher was very particular about both the bowing and fingering technique. In five to six months iye came up to the "Melsathayi" varisais. The preliminary lessons from Sarali to Geeta stage, the exercises, had to be practised in three grades of tempo.

"We joined the Shanmukhananda School where our guru was the teacher. We were taught in groups."

"So no individual attention was paid to you?"

"Our teacher would correct us when we went wrong. It is only practice at home that played a greater role in our progress. In the first year we came up to geetam. In the second jyear beginning with the geetam "Varaveena" in Mohanam we reached the varnam stage. In the third year varnams and kirtanas were taken up.

"Our teacher would watch our progress in the group. We also attended the classes for senior students. If the progress of a student was good our teacher would shift him or her to the senior level. Also all the students who joined the classes would not continue the whole course. Some would leave half way. In our group in the last three years of the course there were only three students including the two of us."

"What is the duration of the course?"

"Six years at the end of which i the Shanmukha Mani Diploma In Music certificate is awarded."

"Do you have a family background in music?"

"Our father learnt the violin and could also sing. Our mother can sing as well."

"Do you have a good voice?"

"We first learnt only vocal music" they said and demonstrated how well they could sing by rendering the Tyagaraja kirtana "Balakanakamaya" in Atana, a fairly competent exposition.

"Father wanted us take to the violin. So we joined the Shanmukhananda School. In the later stage of our progress our father would sing and ask us to play. His guidance in the nuances of music has been of great benefit to us. He would outline the guidelines for the development of raga, how sancharas have to be woven round moorchana swaras and what particular gamaka revealed the beauties of particular ragas, say like Sahana. Again they sang some snatches of Sahana to convey alapana methods.

"You must have heard many good performances arranged by the Shanmukhananda Sabha".

"Even before we joined the Shanmukhananda school, our father would take us to music concerts and as the musician sang, teach us then and there what the raga was, pointing out how it was being developed. Thus musical education began quite early in our lives."

"Did you settle in Madras in 1993 so that you can be in the very heart of the Carnatic music world?"

"Yes. Many well-wishers in Bombay suggested to our father that if we desire to come up in the music field we must come to Madras. My father still stays in Bombay because of his job while our mother looks after us here. Our Bombay teacher, now about 80 plus has also settled in Madras. We go to him quite often for guidance."

"Were you first playing duets?"

"Yes. Since we received offers as accompanists we have taken to it. Moreover Ranjani's timings and mine are such that we are not able to practise together. She is doing her Chartered Accountant course and I am in the third year of B.A. literature." Gayatri said.

"How do you manage to play in performances?"

"Outstation performances are normally held during the weekends. In the city the performances are generally around 6 to 6-30 p.m."

When was your first performance in Madras?"

"It was under the auspices of the Sruti Laya Seva Trust of Karaikudi Mani at the Sastri Hall in the Eighties. Karaikudi Mani and the Bombay Sisters are mainly responsible for introducing us to Madras audiences. We are grateful to them. Later we performed both in duets and as accompanists at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Saraswathy Vaggeyakara Trust, Narada Gana Sabha and other organisations. All the sabhas have been very kind to us and we are fortunate in this respect.


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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:26:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/archive/ranjani-gayatri-in-skilled-unison/article30433343.ece

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