Traditional yet contemporary

Singing Duo

Traditional yet contemporary

Along with their charisma, they bring to the stage a rare blend of youthful vibrancy and classicism.  In a conversation with Sunday Herald, the duo shares their passion for music.

How do you find the ambience and the listeners in Bangalore? Do you plan your concert list accordingly?

We really like the Bangalore ambience. There are very committed listeners here and we have many fans too. We never decide the list of songs based on any particular audience, here or elsewhere. We believe that the audience comes seeking you, what you have to share and the best way to please them is to be true to oneself. Also, a sense of joy should be there, which gets transmitted and then comes back to you.

How was the experience of performing at your first concert?

Our debut was in Mumbai where we grew up. It was 25 years ago. We were 10 (Ranjani) and 13 (Gayatri) then. We gave a violin concert for one hour at St Xavier’s and we don’t remember feeling nervous. Our father wasn’t keen on us performing on stage as he felt we weren’t ready. But our Guru Sri TS Krishnaswamy thought otherwise. He prompted us and so we got on to the concert platform. That was special.

You always wanted to be professional musicians? How tough was your practice regimen when you were young?

We were singing or practising all the time. It was part of our daily routine. But our passion was never about wanting to perform a kutcheri. We loved doing what we did and it was our father’s desire that we learn serious music. Even when we went on  a holiday to Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar, the violin would come with us as our father felt we could practice it without any disturbance. Practising the violin on our father’s office table when he worked overtime is a fond memory.

But you never dreamt of becoming professional performers?

We dreamt of making great music and were always passionate about it. The decision to take it up as a profession came much later. By that time, we had already performed at many concerts. At one point, we were convinced there was nothing else that we wanted to do. So here we are.

How do you practice for your performances?

We’ve been performing together for so long that we can understand each other intuitively. Having said that, we need to be structured in some ways. One of us cannot suddenly decide to skip a sangati. But extreme planning can result in boredom. Allowing room for spontaneity and giving each other space is something we’ve always managed. This way we keep that element of surprise alive in our concerts, which is also how our personalities get reflected through our music, whether the ebullience of one or the caution of the other. While practising we sometimes argue a lot but usually resolve it soon enough because our aesthetic sense is similar.

Which musicians have influenced you the most?

Any music that makes you exclaim ‘A ha!’ counts as an influence. Be it by a professional or otherwise. It operates sub-consciously and surfaces in some way. We have greatly admired many musicians as kids — KVN (KV Narayanaswamy), Lalgudi (Jayaraman), Ramnad Krishnan, and other stalwarts. Each one’s music has touched us in different ways.

Both of you have young kids — Gayatri, your young one is merely six months old. It must be a tough,  juggling between work and family responsibilities, considering your travel schedules.

We’ve got a good support system at home. Everyone pitches in. But even with a supportive husband, there are certain constraints. One can never have the luxury of being the man of the house! But we cope. Multi-tasking is something women are geared for. We have even learnt to practice amidst the din of our kids playing. On the positive side, we believe that caring for your children gives you that much more emotional depth. The coming together of the navarasas in you, definitely impacts your music. A certain mellowness and maturity becomes part of it, very different from when you were a fiery 21 year-old.

Any tips for budding musicians?

We recommend that initially, don’t think about concerts. Practice singing and give yourself some time to grow because once you are a performer you are pre-occupied with so many other things — voice condition, concert craft, which may not necessarily enrich your music. It’s like an investment. If that investment is very high, you can draw on it continuously. We’re still drawing from the enormous amount of practice that we put in as youngsters. For vocalists, it may be better not to overdo the practice; it may spoil their voice. As for instrumentalists, they need much more practice. Fundamentally, any musician need to constantly think about music.


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