D.K. Pattammal

Monday, 19 March 2012

Ranjani-Gayatri capture the essence of the form

By Gayathri Sundaresan

OLI Chamber Concert 4

Oli’s fourth mikeless concert (17 March) threatened to turn into a non-event when indisposition made main performer Neyveli Santhanagopalan cancel his participation on the morning of the day he was to perform. But Oli listeners were not disappointed. They were lucky to hear exhilarating music from Ranjani and Gayathri, who graciously agreed to sing in his stead. They were ably accompanied by Vitthal Ramamurthy (violin) and B. Ganapathyraman (mridangam).

Going by the packed hall, the Oli concept seems to be catching on! For two hours, discerning listeners devoted their complete attention to flowing music, with no ubiquitous cell phone menace to distract them. This, and the proximity between performers and audience, created an ambience conducive to sheer excellence in the artistes, and alertness to every nuance among listeners.

The start was a pleasant surprise – the soft strains of Yadukula Kambhoji followed by Kaalaittookki (Marimutha Pillai).  This contemplative mood was offset by a brisk Raju vedala (Tyagaraja) in Todi, where niraval and kalpanaswaram glittered with energy, without forsaking the character and depth of the major raga.  
While every note they sang testified to their swaragnanam, (surely a spin-off from their expertise as violinists), Dikshitar's Mahalakshmi showed just how this swarasthana suddham could make a rare Madhava Manohari both majestic and heartwarming. The glides ending in tara shadjam proved enchanting, precisely because they were perfectly aligned to sruti. Brigas were equally well timed, where every anuswaram could be heard unerringly in every part of the hall.

Bilahari was the main raga of the evening, the alapana sung in two parts by both Ranjani and Gayatri. This detailed treatment of a raga not always centrestaged as the main piece provided ample opportunity to explore its possibilities. Gayatri's flight of imagination and rich prayogas had the audience sighing in wonder. Mysore Vasudevachar's Sri Chamundeswari, not often heard, came next, in a grand progression of systematic sangatis. Niraval and kalpanaswaram (Raaka nishakara sannibha vadane) were so sensitive that the devout among the listeners felt they could tune into the radiance of the Devi's face!

Their ability to make melody heighten the meaning and vice versa has Ranjani and Gayatri excel in viruttams, as evident in Kamban’s exquisite lines rendered on that day in Keeravani, Hamsanandi and Maand, as a prelude to Papanasam Sivan’s Ramanai bhajittaal.

No Carnatic music recital seems complete without madhyama sruti resonance. Ranjani and Gayatri offered a short ugabhoga viruttam in Yamunakalyani, followed  by the all-time favorite Krishna nee begane baro as the concluding piece, leaving the audience asking for more.

Accompanists Vitthal Ramamurthy and Ganapathyraman played in a controlled manner, banking the natural flow, well aware that voices could be drowned by overloud instruments. Ganapathyraman's soft strokes on the mridangam, especially while playing for the kritis, enhanced every mood. He kept his tani avartanam under a tight leash, aware of the time and the overall balance of a two-hour concert. It was a brainwave to lower the volume in the final crescendo, and, after the niraval line was signed off by the vocalists, summing up the whole piece with a flash of thunder.

The sisters' command and control over voice, crystal clear enunciation of sahitya, and adherence to classicism were seen in full measure. More, they knew just how to make the experience of a chamber music recital different from a public concert in a large auditorium. The fewer, well-chosen, contrastive ragas and compositions were, every one of them, treated with complete fidelity and devotion.

The evening reinforced our faith in Carnatic music as a collective experience of beauty, and in the fact that there are musicians to sustain these values; and, more important, that there are rasikas to appreciate and nurture this aesthetic experience.


Ranjani and Gayatri, the doubly-talented duo of vocalists cum violinists (disciples of Sangeeta Bhushanam TS Krishnaswamy and Sangita Acharya PS Narayanswamy) have carved a special niche for themselves amongst sahrdayas. This winning partnership is not altogether unlike cricket where the batsmen complement each other’s game.

Vitthal Ramamurthi is a torch-bearer of the Lalgudi bani. His mellifluous playing and bolstering accompaniment are well-known. He is especially known for spreading awareness of Carnatic music in and around his home-town near Dharmasthala, Karnataka.

B Ganapathyraman is one-Oli concert old now. His music is the joint legacy of his father Sethalapatti Balasubramaniam and his guru Kumbhakonam Rajappa Iyer. His accompaniment lends itself to the style of the vocalist and the mood of the concert.


1. Sketch of Yadukulakambhoji followed by Kaalaithookki
2. Rajuvedala, Todi, with niraval and swaram 
3. Mahalakshmi karunarasalahari, Madhava Manohari
4. Sri Chamundesvari, Bilahari - Ragam, niraval, swaram, tani
5. Viruttam (Kamban's verses in Kiravani, Hamsanandi and Mand) followed by Ramanai bhajittal
6. Ugabhoga followed by Krishna ni begane baro, Yamuna Kalyani


Oli, a yearlong project (Feb 2012-Feb 2013), revives the tradition of intense participatory listening, the life-giving matrix of Indian classical music, with two chamber concerts every month.

Oli's chamber concerts are mikeless in order to preserve the tonal integrity of voice and instrument.

Well known advocate and patron of music Vijayaraghavan sponsored the Ranjani-Gayatri concert on 17 March 2012.

Those who wish to receive intimation of future Oli concerts may please write to olichamberconcerts@gmail.com


  1. Oli is a nice initiative.The atmosphere was great.Heard Bilahari Kriti Sri Chamundeswari after a long time.The duo sang Krishna Nee begane baro beautifully in their own style.


  2. The photo has mikes. Is it not supposed to be mikeless concerts?

    Mani, Dar es Salaam,Tanzania

  3. The mikes were used to record the concert, not to amplify the sound.

    1. Oh Ok. Thanks. I wish I will be in Chennai to attend some of these mikeless concerts.