I am MANYA BHARADWAJ, a pious disciple of Carnatic music, learning manodharma portions from Vid. Kanchana Shruthiranjani (one of the Kanchana Sisters). Thanks to my mother Smt. Bhooma Bharadwaj who initiated me to this blessed art under such wonderful guru. The music and works of my guru Vid. Shruthiranjani and her sister Vid. Shriranjani have always inspired my learning of music and recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing them on a new topic. Here are some excerpts I would like to share with you, from our conversation:
Me: You’ve been working on a few collaborative projects. The first one was MadRasana, where the artists sing with just a tambura. What was that like?
Shriranjani: The idea behind MadRasana is that there is no percussion to accompany the artists – so there is no background sound or anything to overshadow the artist’s voice. This means that the listener – and the artist – can focus solely on the artist’s rendering of the song, and the purity of the sound. Since it took place in a more pensive setting, we could choose a slightly slower-paced song, and concentrate on the bhavam [emotion].
Shruthiranjani: What we loved was that it was, as Ranjani said, an extremely relaxed setting. The people at the recording studio were very warm and friendly, and Mahesh and Aruna [the organizers of Madrasana] did their best to make us feel welcome. It was a wonderful experience, both as a performing musician, and as visitors to the studio.
Me: The other collaboration you were recently working on is with Shaale. Tell us a little bit about that.
Shriranjani: Shaale is an Abhyasagana music app, designed to help students of Carnatic vocal, instrumental, and percussion music, learn to perform Carntatic music. We recorded a selection of songs for this project. We’ve known Skanda [the organizer of Shaale] for a while, but he likes to say that had he heard us sing earlier, he wouldn’t have waited another minute to offer us a collaboration.
Me: Both these projects are similar in that the music is shared through a digital medium. Was that intentional?
Shruthiranjani: Yes. Media is evolving, and digital media is now one of the most accessible forms, especially among the youth. It helps us target a wider audience, since many Carnatic music fans may not have access to sabhas, or face-to-face interaction with artists.
Me: Why did you pick Jagadodharana for MadRasana, as opposed to a rarer composition?
Shriranjani: The idea of MadRasana is that it’s a quiet, calm, serene setting. Jagadodharana is a song about baby Krishna, and has a lot of depth and room for bhavam. It’s also a song whose meaning is widely known, so listeners are able to understand the bhavam.
Me: Tell us about your song selections for the Shaale project.
Shriranjani: We decided to go with slightly rarer, more unique compositions such as an Ata Tala varnam by Muttayya Bhagavatar, in Mohana ragam. We also sang a devarnama in Shivaranjani ragam, which was set to tune by our father and guru, Karnataka Kalashri Kanchana V. Subbarathnam.
Shruthiranjani: To help the percussion students, we sang Kshira Sagara Shayana. We also sang Brova Bharama with kalpana-swaram, as well as Rangapuravihara.
Me: What has been your favorite experience about these projects?
Shriranjani: MadRasana, as we’ve mentioned, was also a unique experience, where the focus was on the main artist’s voice. It’s a setting that allows more flexibility than the traditional kacheri [concert], and we were able to make the most of that in our rendition of Jagadodharana.
Shruthiranjani: I think what makes Shaale special is the reason behind the app. It’s the first of its kind for Carnatic music, and we feel happy that we were able to contribute to a self-funded initiative to spread Carnatic music education among people.
Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Shruthiranjani: Our family has been running the Kanchana Shri Lakshminarayana Trust since 1950, and has done yeomen service for the education and awareness of the Indian classical arts. We see projects such as MadRasana and Shaale as our collaborators in a common cause.
– MANYA BHARADWAJ