Ranjani and Gayatri Q & A Comments

What a fascinating conversation with the Vidushis Ranjani and Gayatri at the Q&A organized by SRUTI The India Music and Dance Society and conducted very well by Revathi Subramony! Just like their music, this conversation was imbued with the depth and richness of their expression, undergirded by a great clarity of thought and a brilliant spontaneity in narration! Here are a few highlights from the insightful and eloquent responses Ranjani and Gayatri gave to questions from the audience and the moderator.

- Bombay gave them a cosmopolitan background with many different musical influences though at home, their parents, who are both highly musically proficient, provided an environment steeped in Carnatic music.

- Voice is an intrinsic instrument (vis-à-vis violin) that provides an innate grasp to an artist, which needs to be honed by Akaara sadhakam.

- In response to a question on the 1% inspiration part of their genius, Gayatri beautifully explained how it is practice, Sadhana as the penance (Tapas), that leads the mind of an artist to continuously evolve and reach that inspired plane.

- The sisters alluded to how they seek a balance between virtuosity and aesthetics, a proportion to their music. A well thought out concert planning lets them highlight the panorama of variety that Carnatic music offers and provide gripping music for the entire concert duration.

- Ranjani talked about Gayatri’s natural talent and genius with sisterly love and pride.

- On how Viruttams need to be a complete fit to the intent of the krithi that follows. The sisters sang the viruttam composed by their father, “Kulir mazhai kakka” followed by Enna solli azhaithal nee varuvaayo.

- Emotion (Bhava) as having the utmost importance – Ranjani talked about emotion as the ultimate truth that lets the artist connect to the audience.

- Ragam Tanam Pallavi – as the most important part of concert presentation that lets the artist explore pure music. It’s up to the artist to imbue aesthetics to any ragam they choose for RTP

- About stalwarts of music – Ariyakkudi as the master of balance in a concert setting, GNB for his incredible soundscape and Semmangudi for aesthetics. Gayatri said she admired KVN and Tanjore Kalyanaraman.

- On the prevalent male chauvinism, Gayatri talked about the general tendency to diminish the accomplishments of women by categorizing them as either “glamorous” (or hence popular) or Jnaanastha (scholarly hence not popular), but never both.

- Grahabhedam as the sprinkles on the ice cream that a solid raga alapana or swara kalpana is. Gayatri illustrated with Chakravakam to Sarasangi as well as Abhogi to valachi. Important to judiciously retain important gamakas/phrases – Gayatri sang Neelambari grahabhedam from Nattaikkurinji to illustrate.

- Ranjani talked about how an artist is as tall as their tradition and how they stand on the shoulders of generations past. Gayatri spoke about humility as the greatest virtue of an artist

- Parents are the first gurus and need to ensure a musically rich environment at home to sustain the learning for children. Ranjani spoke about allowing children to grow at their pace just like plants blossom at different times.

- One mirthful moment was when Gayatri narrated how as young girl she too had difficulty predicting exactly when a tani avartanam would finish – she even thought the mridamgist was circling around and when he landed on the black middle round part, the tani ended!

- On vocal range, the sisters talked about the need for mindful practice while holding notes for long periods of time.

The artists’ confidence, rootedness, talent and ability to speak their mind made this a memorable event!

By Rajee Padmanabhan

A very natural and spontaneous responses to questions and very valuable advice to both parents and young aspirants. Those present also got a glimpse of what is to come tomorrow. Wishing Gayatri a very happy birthday and thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts and insights. Well done Revathi Subramony and thanks to SRUTI The India Music and Dance Society for organizing this.

By Srikant Raghavachari
It was an honor to converse with Ranjani and Gayathri. They are not only vocalists par excellence, they are also highly intelligent and eloquent speakers with great command of language! We had many interesting questions from Rasikas at Sruti and the sisters answered each one of them in detail and it was a learning moment for all of us!

By Revathi Subramony