Song of Surrender

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Generation Next

By KS Kalidas

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan

Successful musicians in the past were generally not in favour of their wards taking up music as their profession. The reasons were the hardships they had faced in their career and also the uncharitable comparisons that people often made between them and their offsprings. Till about three decades ago, concert opportunities were quite limited, which discouraged youngsters from taking up music as their career. Of course, the constant ‘sound of music’ at home did rub off on the children and they became quite knowledgeable, though they did not necessarily become performers.

Things have changed to some extent now. With the increase in performing opportunities, growing independence and self-confidence of the younger generation, and the rigours of the profession getting mitigated considerably, we do have youngsters from music families taking up careers in music.

One such young musician is 22-year old vocalist Sriranjani, daughter of the popular musician Neyveli Santhanagopalan. Santhanagopalan, the most important disciple of Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, has over the years, evolved a style of his own, emphasising bhava with influence drawn from such musicians as Tanjavur Sankara Iyer. Sriranjani’s earliest inspiration was undoubtedly her father, but while growing up, she was deeply attracted to the music of the late Madurai Mani, Semmangudi and Ramnad Krishnan whose recordings are now freely available with collectors and on the Internet. Her current favourite is S. Sowmya.

Sriranjani started giving public concerts in 2008 and immediately attracted attention. She sang in as many as twenty concerts that year including programmes in major city sabha-s. In the following years, opportunities to perform grew exponentially. Today she has performed not only in most Chennai sabha-s but also in various cities in the country. She has won awards as the best junior musician in sabha-s like Narada Gana Sabha, Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Indian Fine Arts Society and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.

As her father has close association with a number of pakkavadyam artists who drop in at his home frequently, Sriranjani has the good fortune of practising extensively with violin and mridanga artists, thereby gaining experience that gives her a certain confidence and comfort level in her public concerts. She was a runner-up in the ‘Carnatic Idol’ contest conducted by a popular TV channel. Just four years after she started performing, some sabha-s are offering her the senior slot to present concerts of two-and-a-half-hour duration with senior violinists like Narmadha, Usha Rajagopalan, and Padma Shankar and senior mridangists like J. Vaidhyanathan, Arun Prakash and Mannarkoil Balaji. In order to keep her voice in fine fettle, she does pranayamam and ‘akaara sadhakam’ daily.

Santhanagopalan is a much sought after teacher of music too. Sriranjani assists him in taking classes in person and over the Internet. There are occasions when she learns from her father over Skype while they are in different parts of their house, says Sriranjani. Such is the hold of the Internet on our lives today!

Sriranjani is academically brilliant too. A school topper in 2007, she also stood first in the state in accountancy and business studies in the B. Com. examinations. Though she could easily have secured admission in professional courses such as engineering, medicine or management, her commitment to music led her to choosing commerce, a comparatively ‘soft course’. Sriranjani is now doing a masters course in music under the distance education programme of Madras University and hopes to pursue her studies to the Ph.D level.

(The author is a mridanga vidwan, connoisseur of classical music, and a keen follower of young talent)

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