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An evening with RaGa at The Hindu

Ranjani and Gayatri at The Hindu Fridays, at The Hindu office premises on May 10, 2024.
| Photo Credit: RAVINDRAN R

“What is the use of a book “, thought Alice “without pictures or conversations.” ( Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland).

Recently, The Hindu Friday Review decided to do what John Tenniel did to Lewis Carroll’s much-loved tales .If John’s charming illustrations brought to life the words of Carroll, the TH Fridays’ event, organised recently at The Hindu premises, brought forth a new dimension of the art and culture supplement.

Curated by Team FR, the second edition (first one featured Sikkil Gurucharan and Madhan Karky) had the well-known vocalist-duo, Ranjani and Gayatri, in conversation, punctuated with melodious singing. The event was moderated by Akhila Krishnamurthy, founder, Aalaap. Tracing their journey, Akhila highlighted how Providence transformed the sisters from violinists to vocalists. This happened when they stepped in for a vocalist who had not turned up for a concert. From accompanying artistes they became main performers.

During the course of the conversation, the sisters spoke about how tradition is not just a set of rules. ‘‘It is more about adapting to and incorporating new ideas. This ensures a constant creative growth.”

Apart from regular kutcheris, Ranjani and Gayatri have been working on thematic concerts. The idea behind their ‘Raja by Raga’ and ‘Rasa by Raga’, was to take Carnatic music to a wider audience. The sisters elaborated with example of how when one listens to a film song, one is captured by the mood. “But when you are listening to classical music, you will be looking into the nuances and technicalities.”

Duo Ranjani and Gayatri shared their experience working with the ace composer Ilaiyaraaja.

Duo Ranjani and Gayatri shared their experience working with the ace composer Ilaiyaraaja.
| Photo Credit:

According to the duo, the aim was not just to reproduce Ilaiyaraaja’s music, but to recreate it by lending a third dimension.

Their growing up in Mumbai and exposure to diverse musical influences have played a significant role in their journey. Apart from training classical music, they were familiar with both Hindi and Tamil film music. “We heard them all on radio, which opened up the world of music for us,” said Ranjani. Gayatri shared how Raja sir’s music used violin to the maximum effect and as violinists that appealed. “At college fests, I would reproduce his amazing tracks on the strings of my violin. We had never imagined one day we would be working with the inimitable composer on a music project,” said Gayatri.

The sisters spoke about how thematic concerts has widened their repertoire and reach. “You get the opportunity to venture into new terrains. “‘Rasa by Raga’ helped us discover the beauty of languages and musical styles. There’s so much of learning and sharing that happens when curating such performances,” said Gayatri.

Referring to family support, they recalled how their father constantly pushed them to learn, practise and find their niche. “Mridangam exponent guru Karaikudi R Mani, who was our father’s friend, gave us our first performance in Chennai under the aegis of his Sruthilaya,” said Ranjani.

When on stage, the two are always seen smiling, exchanging notes and complimenting each other. Do they have disagreements and arguments? “Yes, of course, like other siblings we do have, especially when working on our music. But finally we come around, since we know we are on this journey together working towards a common goal,” said Ranjani.

For over two decades, Ranjani and Gayatri have been exploring Carnatic music to find their own distinct expression. On or off stage, their life revolves around ra-ga.

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