KOCHI: Classical music is a divine art, and its origins can be traced back to centuries. For those who ardently follow Carnatic music, Kalyani Ramani is a familiar name. The US-based Carnatic vocalist and founder of music school VeenaVani in New Jersey, she was recognised as one of the best music faculties in North America.
With a masters degree in music from Kerala University, she moved to the US after her wedding and decided to start a music college in 2003. She performed recently at TDM hall, alongside Vishnu Chandramohan (Violin), Tripunithura A S Neelakandan (Mridangam) and Subrahmanyam (Ghatam).
Kalyani was excited to be back in the city for her performance and managed to carry to the audience the divine world of music. Having born into a musical family, she is now guiding many children overseas and reviving Indian classical music abroad. “Music runs in my blood,” she says, adding that the love for the art is her biggest inspiration. Kochi Express caught up with her for a brief conversation.
Your mother, R Subbalekshmi , was a music professor at Swathi Thirunal college. Did she inspire you to take up music as your profession?
She did. Music was always part of my family. My mother underwent vocal training from great musicians. I never planned to take up music as a profession, because back in the day, everyone just learnt music for the sake of it. I had only taught as a substitute teacher when amma wasn’t around (laughs). Teaching was a passion ever since. After I got married and moved to the US, the thought of starting my school happened.
Tell us about Veena Vani and the culture there?
It is just like any other institution. I am the only teacher and have around 50 students. I take group lessons. Back when there were no social media, people used to know about the school from word of mouth, and I used to sing in temples. My first student was a Malayali and through him, I got the rest of the bunch. In 2003, I registered the class. Since I teach both vocals and veena, I decided to call it VeenaVani.
In 2019 two of your students received Thyagaraja Festival award in Cleveland. How did that feel?
Thankfully, many recognitions have come my way since 2003. Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival usually features a lot of my students. They are very dedicated when it comes to practice. Their parents are quite involved too.
How do you perceive the influence of technology on music?
Online learning has become very popular lately, especially with platforms like Skype and Facetime. Even parents prefer it to physically being there. But I believe that students should learn from me. That is how I learned from my mother and I would like to carry the legacy forward.Today’s generation is more inclined towards electronic music. Do you think there is an acceptance for Carnatic music among youngsters?
It is sometimes sad to hear Thyagaraja or Swathi Thirunaal’s music being fused with guitars and keyboard. That is something I cannot tolerate. The younger generation might think that these divine verses could be sung the way they want, but as a teacher, I believe I could change some of their minds.
What are your immediate plans with music?
I haven’t planned out my concerts yet. I am planning on expanding my school, but it would require me to train my students to be teachers, and I am not sure if I’m okay with that yet.