By KS Kalidas
Archana and Aarathi
(Reproduced from Sruti 345, June 2013)
Few young musicians can claim the pedigree that the twenty four year-old vocalist twins Archana and Aarathi do. They are the great grandnieces of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar and great granddaughters of T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, who were first cousins. Muthiah Bhagavatar was a great musicologist, Harikatha exponent and illustrious composer. Venkatarama Iyer, besides being an eminent jurist, was also an authority on Dikshitar kritis; both were, of course, Sangita Kalanidhis. What is more, the twins are disciples of Sangita Kalanidhi R. Vedavalli, a respected musician and guru in Chennai.
Judging by today’s standards, Archana and Aarathi are late starters as most talented youngsters start performing while in their teens and get noticed in the space of four or five years by sabhas and rasikas. In the case of the twins, they have gained attention and a fair share of popularity only in the last two years.
Their parents are not musicians but have a deep interest in music. As the girls have taken to music like ducks to water, they have been given full freedom to choose music as their career though they are both degree holders in engineering, graduating with merit two years ago. They have declined the job offers that came their way. In this respect, they are among a large number of qualified professionals who give up a lucrative career in order to pursue a career in music; this is specially true of girls. Wonder why youngsters go in for a professional degree in the first place when their goal is a musical career!
Be that as it may, music in the twins’ family started in right earnest when their elder brother started learning vocal music and became passionately interested in it. While he did not take up music as his vocation, he and the parents wanted Archana and Aarathi to do so. However, as their father had frequent job related transfers, their learning was frequently disrupted. As advised by well-wishers, they trained for about two years with vidwan P.S. Narayanaswamy, three years with veena vidwan Trivandrum Venkataraman and for seven years with vidushi R. Vedavalli, still continuing their tutelage under her. They are also final year students in the three-year advanced course in music at the Music Academy, Madras. According to them, while their private tuition helps them to understand the nuances of music, the course in the Academy trains them in the practical side of their concerts.
Their first concert was in 2005 at Naada Inbam, Chennai, and since then, they have sung at many venues in Chennai and other places in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bengaluru and Mumbai (Shanmukhananda Hall). Under the talent promotion scheme of the Iyal, Isai Nataka Manram, Chennai, they have performed in Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli. Apart from winning prizes in various competitions, they have also earned titles like Padma Bharati and Sangeeta Balabrahmam.
Being a performing duo, and twins at that, gives them certain advantages. There is constant company, exchange of ideas and joint planning for concerts. Usually in singing duos, one of them has a voice heavier than the other. The twins’ voices have identical timbre and strength and blend well. Their diction is good and their music has ‘azhuttham’. They are graded artists of AIR and Doordarshan.
With solid talent and a good musical upbringing, we can expect Archana and Aarathi to have a successful career in music in the years to come.
(KS Kalidas is a mridanga vidwan, connoisseur of classical music, and a keen follower of young talent)