CHENNAI: Twenty four-year-old Sriranjani Santhanagopalan never knew that she would become a performing vocal artiste. With no formal training till the age of 17, she has though come a long way. Recently, she was awarded the best vocalist (junior) by The Music Academy. The daughter and disciple of noted vocalist Neyveli Santhanagopalan, Sriranjani says that music was her hobby initially. “I was serious about my MBA plans. But everything took a turn after my first concert, which I presented when I was in class 10,” she says.
Like any other modern-day artiste, Sriranjani was encouraged to focus more on academics, but it was her father who made her look at music seriously. “Music has always been an integral part of my family, but my main interest was Microbiology. And then things gradually changed. Now, music comes first. I consider myself fortunate to have a father-guru like him. He’s a strict disciplinarian,” she says.
They say, without family support, it is not easy for an artiste to shine in the public space. Sriranjani agrees wholeheartedly. “I am nothing without my dad and his criticisms,” she says. However, she is keen on making a mark for herself in carnatic music. “I love taking up challenging ragas and compositions. I have my own baani and I put a conscious effort that I don’t sound like my dad during kutcheris. But expectations are always high,” she says.
Sriranjani is a recipient of many recognitions including Yuvakala Bharathi award from Bharat Kalachar, MS Subbulakshmi Award from Narada Gana Sabha, to name a few. Ask her what she does in her free time and she responds, “I discuss music with my friends, who are of my age group. When we meet, we discuss ways to enrich our concerts. We talk about styles, ragas, compositions, musicians and composers. These conversations help me understand the pulse of the audiences and make me perform well,” she says.
Sriranjani says the biggest challenge is to make the concert sound fresh and alive. “We are not here just to entertain, but also to give something solid. Kutcheris should be crisp without unnecessary frills. The feedback and comments that I get after every concert matter a lot. Success lies only in introspecting those genuine criticisms,” she says.
Having presented concerts here and abroad, bhava, according to Sriranjani, is a matter of experience. “Certain things cannot be taught. It ought to be felt from within by a musician. This, of course, comes with age and experience. A good musician has to be a good rasika in the first place,” she says. And what about her future plans? “I want to bring out individual theme CDs on the compositions of Ponniah Pillai. I am also planning to tune Kandhar Anuboodhi in a Ragamalika format soon,” she says. How about playback singing? “A few did come my way but I didn’t take them up. In future, when I find something interesting, I will go ahead,” she says.