Ranjani was a leading Carnatic Vocalist hailing from Udupi, Dakshina Kannada Dist in Karnataka. She was a talented artist who rose to prominence at a very young age surprising the ardent lovers of music when a little child stood up to perform wonders in the celebrated areas of Carnatic Classical Music. Her life is a story by itself.
Ranjani was able to sing in synchrony with Sruti while she was barely one and half year old. She would search for sa-pa-sa for any sruti range from harmonium. As she grew up her first renderings were Shlokas in Raga Saveri, Hindola, etc. She was able to identify about thirty to forty ragas most appropriately when she as barely two- three years. This made her parents, Smt. Vasanthalakshmi and Sri.V. Aravinda Hebbar, to hone them under a proper guru.
Her parents - Prof. V Aravinda Hebbar and Smt. Vasanathalaxmi Hebbar initiated her into Carnatic music. Vidwan Sri Madhur P. Balasubrahmanyam of Udupi gave her excellent training in Carnatic vocal for about 8-10 years. She started winning prizes in all competitions that she participated. She gave her first concert at Raga Dhana Udupi in 1992 while she was just 9 years old.
The little Champ:
She participated in a State level Youth Music Competition held at Shivamogga in 1994 where it was open for all ages below 25 years. Ranjani’s recital in this one hour duration Competition became a phenomenal hit. The little Ranjani had sung a Ragam Tanam Pallavi in raga Kalyani in Khandajati Triputa tala. Her rendering in tishram made everyone to raise their eye brows. Currency notes flew on to the stage in succession. The mridangist and violinist were humbled at the proficiency of the little kid. A correspondent of The Hindu came on to the stage to announce his prize money of Rs. 500 on the spot irrespective of the result that the organizers would announce. The organizers were in confusion. The 11- year old little champ had grabbed the attention of audience and the vidwans alike. When the results were out there was a huge crowd to witness the Virasat of the little Ranjani. She was given first prize for her performance under a separate category of Special award. The next year she gave one more concert in the same place at Shivamogga for a packed and a house full audience at 9.30pm slot.
Her Pakkala nilabadi in Kharaharapriya, the main piece, was rendered with perfection in sruti,laya, alapana, & tala. The scintillating neraval and kalpana swara prastarams were beyond to her age.
Tutelage under S. Sowmya:
The perfect alignment of sruti and a right grip over tala-layam and holding of the sahityam for the perfect kalapramanam took Ranjani to scale very high in her achievements. While she was studying in the 8th standard, her parents requested her former guru Sri. Madhur Sir to take her to Chennai to be trained under the rising star artiste Kumari S. Sowmya and her father Sri M. Srinivasan. The training at Chennai gave a different colour and lustre to Ranjani’s singing. Very soon she rose to a higher pedestal through theloving tutelage she obtained at her Sowmyakka’s house. Her repertory started increasing day by day, keeping the dexterity and strict adherence to grammar and aesthetics, precise and solid.
As Smt. S. Sowmya grew to be a star and a glowing artiste she found difficult in honing Ranjani further. However she made alternate arrangements to send Ranjani under the veteran Guru‘Pallavi Puli’ Sri Chenglepet Ranganathan at Chennai. The latter took Ranjani to his fold and chiseled, along with Prarthana Rao, another bright little girl from Mangalore under his tutelage. The two little girls grew very strong in all aspects of Manodharma music of Carnatic Music. Calls from Concert Organizers began to flow in quite a good number without any recommendations or influences. SAFE Ramabhadran, of the esteemed Shanthi Foundation at Chennai patronized Ranjani to a very large extent arranging her concerts every year for one or the other occasions. Ramabhadran, Rajagopalan, S V Krishnan, Chellappa, V.V. Sundaram, Vitan Subramanyam, and a host of other rasikas became her strong and staunch fans at Chennai. They would never miss her concerts. She had travelled Chennai, Madurai, Palghat, Guruvayoor,Calicut, Trivandraum, Coimbatore, Tirupati, Warangal, Vijayawada, Mumbai,Delhi and Cleveland(USA),outside Karnataka.
She got 1st prize in the State level Classical music Competition during the Decennial celebrations of Raga Dhana Udupi in 1998, where D. Shashikala, GN Desikan, NP Ramaswamy and A Ishwarayya were on the panel of Juries. Ranjani got many cash awards, Tambura and Gold Medal in this competition held at Udupi.
The year 2000 was her year of ascent. She made her 1st appearance in Chennai at Indian Fine Arts Society on 1-1-2000 to give a 1 hour concert at 1 PM slot. She won the 1st prize a ‘Tambura’ in that Competition which was a great honor. Veterans like Dr V V Srivatsa, Suguna Purushottaman, TR Subramanayam, GN Desikan , M Srinivasan and S Sowmya had attended the concert and blessed the young star.
Ranjani got second prize in the same year under Late DK Jayaraman Foundation- ‘TheBudding Vidwan’ contest with Gold medal given by the Doyen Sri Semmangudi R SrinivasaIyer. (The first prize was bagged by Sri Saketaraman). The Judges were TR Subramaniam, TK Murthy, T Rukmini. The Chief Guest for the award function was TN Seshan, the then Chief Election Commissioner of India.
She got 1st prize in Akashavani Shastreeya Sangeeth Competition for Ladies, in the same year, and hence graded ‘B’ in AIR. Malleshwaram Sangeeth Sabha of Bangalore gave her ‘Ananya Pratibhe’ in 2001.
Vani Nritya Niketan of Warangal ( Andhra Pradesh) felicitated her in 2003 at Warangal with a Title ‘Gaanaamrithadhaara’ with a Silver Plate Award.
A covetable first prize was received by Ranjani in 2004 from a National Ragam Tanam Pallavi contest held at Sangeetha Parishath of Mangalore, where Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna, Chandanabala, Trichy Pradeep Kumar and other star youngsters had also participated. The judges were TK Murthy, Suguna Varadachary, V Ramaratnam, M Venkateshachar and A. Ishwarayya.
She got an M S Subbulakshmi Award by Bhramara Trust of Mysore in 2005 given by Lalgudi G Jayaraman , Suttoor Mutt Swamiji and TN Chaturvedi, the then Governor of Karnataka.
She got upgraded as ‘A’ grade artiste in AIR in 2006.
She obtained her MA degree in Music from Madras University in the same year. She had the honor of singing a melodious prayer in the presence of the illustrious President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam at a grand gala function organized by Madras University.
She was conferred Kalki Krishnamurthy Award in 2007, along with Akkarai Subbulakshmi at Chennai.
She got DK Pattammal and TV Subba Rao Award in 2008 from Music Academy, Madras.
She got conferred the Title ‘Isai Chudar’ by Karthik Fine Arts, Chennai in 2009 and ‘BharathaMani National Award’in the same year by Manikrishnaswamy Academy and Bharath Nritya Sabha of Mangalore.
Ranjani’s Music :
Her concerts were well planned. The structure and the lay out of the concert would touch the hearts of connoisseur and a lay rasika alike. She had a free flowing swing of strong, divine and sonorous voice able to glide on all three octaves with ease. Her elaborate alapana, and a candid neraval would easily capture the heart of any listener. Seldom she chose to apply kanakkus to her music.
When she was improvising on it at Madurai while accompanying her Guru Chenglepet sir as a co-vocalist in his C sruti, it was extolling and extra ordinary attempt. Chenglepet sir himself was heard chirping remarks of laudation with ‘shahbbhas’ again and again to her on the stage along with the Mridangam wizard Sri Tiruvaroor Bhaktavatsalam who was seated among the audience in the front row. Her rare RTP in Raga Sallapam is remembered even now at some corners of Chennai. In addition Ranjani is acclaimed as a great singer for her soulful renderings of Evarimata, Mari mari nine, Bhajare Manasa, Enta nine, Dinamanivamsha, Meenaakshi me mudam dehi, Soundara Rajam, Hiranmayim Lakshmi, Sada Saranga Nayane, Amba Kamakshi, ‘Ninna Naamadali’ (in Sarasangi), Teliyaleru, Ganamurthe, Ninne nammi naanu, Kaddanuvariki, Shri Maatrbhootam, Vande mataram(full script in raga Desh)and others. Her Devaranamas like Hoova Taruvara(Abheri), Hege mecchisali (Gorakh Kalyan), Ninyako (Karnaranjani), Sada Enna (BrundavanaSaranga), Tambulava Kollo (Reetigowla), Kandu Kandu Nee Enna (Kambhoji), Nudidare Muttina Haradantirabeku (Maru Behag), Maraviddu Phalavenu (Yaman Kalyani), Baro Krishnayya (Ragamalike), Binnahake Bayillavayya (Revathi), Hari Bhajane (Abheri), Raagi Tandeera (Maund) were getting repeated ‘furmaayish’ from the ardent listeners of Chennai.
Ranjani was less called, for concerts from people of Karnataka for unknown reasons. She was flowing like Cauvery of Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. Chennai rasikas adored her music much more than anybody else.
Nada Inbam arranged maximum number of concerts initiated by Sri S V Krishnan in Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore , Chennai. Music Academy Madras gave her the 12 o’clock slot thrice (2007, 2008 and 2009) but never promoted further for reasons unknown. Ranjani’s concert was well received and very well appreciated by a host of many reputed musicians when Smt. Gowri and Dr. Ramnarayan couple had arranged an Oli Concert – a mike-less concert- at their residence at Chennai in 2012 September. A lot has been written about this concert in Review columns later by different musicians and rasikas. One is advised to go through a heart touching article written by Dr. Ramanarayan, Editor of Sruti, who wrote about Ranjani in DNA India of Mumbai under the Title ‘Death of a Brilliant Possibility’ on 15-6-2013. A talented Ranjani Hebbar not getting her due as a vocalist has been engraved in these columns. Her last concert was at Tirupati under Nada Neerajanam on May 3rd 2013.
At the later stages of her life, after age 27 she was growing repellent for the intellectual exercises of carnatic classical music. She preferred in keeping ‘Jeeru’ in her Shruthi, fullyladen with bhava. Her training in Hindusthani Music by Sri Narayan Pandithji of Honnavar (A disciple of Kumar Gandharvaji) during 2010 made her introvert. She turned inside and looked for the divinity in the music. The marketing business in the music world around made her very much repellent to the idea. She sought solace in rendering Sankeertan Bhajans more than in the classical art. Her mentor and Guru of Art of Living Sri Chayapathi Guruji influenced her very much in shaping her like a saint musician.
Ranjani was residing in Madras since 2000. She managed to stay in a hostel, later in a rented house in Mylapore. Her brother Saranga Hebbar stayed with her for some time. His support for her music was worth emulating. She was married to Sri Guruprasad, an IT engineer, in 2009 when she was at her peak in her music career. Two of her mother’s students–Archana and Samanvi had the fortune of being trained by Ranjani at her residence in Chennai. Archana(17) and Samanvi(15) are now promising vocal artists , as their tutelage is looked after by Ranjani Memorial Trust under the able guidance of Prof. V. Aravinda Hebbar and his wife Smt. Vasnthalaxmi along with their supportive parents. They are now getting trained by Sangitha Kalanidhi Chitraveena N. Ravikiran in Chennai during theirvacation since 2015.
Ranjani was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012 diagnosed at third stage, without giving prior notice whatsoever. The chemotherapy and all medications on earth could not shield her from this Emperor of Maladies. Even when she was nearing the end, she decided to keep on singing passionately to Lord Krishna and Akhilandeshwari as long as she lived. She was laid to eternal rest after a year’s tumult of cancer on 9th June 2013.
Ranjani is remembered in Udupi by her parents and her well wishers through ‘Ranjani Memorial Trust’ established in 2014. The Trust is organizing educative concerts and helps those who promise to dedicate themselves for the cause of Indian classical music. The Trust has been arranging concerts during the week of Ranjani’s birthday i.e., 9th September every year for the past three years to commemorate the great artist and bring forth many more Ranjanis of today.
Raga Dhana Udupi, a 30 year old organization for Music based in Udupi has also joined to dedicate a day for concerts during this time in memory of Ranjani, the beloved daughter of the land.
Mani Krishnaswamy Academy of Mangalore led by Sri P Nithyananda Rao is also organizing concerts in memory of this legendary musician Ranjani in tandem with above two organizations.
Dr P. Rajagopalan (Brother of SAFE Ramabhadran) an Octogenarian of Chennai is sponsoring an endowment youth concert every year under Nada Inbam at Raga Sudha Hall in memory of Ranjani on her death Anniversary i.e., 9thJune since 2015. In 2017, Kum. Archana and Kum. Samanvi were invited for a full fledged concert, the first official appearance of Ranjani’s disciples at Chennai.
Amritavarshini Sabha at Coimbatore and Sarada Academy at Bapatla (Guntur Dist.) have also arranged concerts in Ranjani’s memory by inviting Archana and Samanvi warmly to those places in the year 2017.