He has seen it all, done it all to carve a niche for himself. He is not the one to crave for publicity. That he has achieved so much in the field of music and science, Dr K Varadarangan certainly needs no introduction. As the saying goes, ‘Talent doesn’t need a trumpet, it speaks for itself.’ Rangan has a rich family legacy. He belongs to a family with a rich heritage of art, music and culture. His literary lineage includes his mother Gorur. R. Sreemathi and also well-known writers like P T Narasimhachar and Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar. Rangan is an established Carnatic vocalist. He has performed in many sabhas of South India, radio and TV channels. He is the creator of the S. R. I. mrudanga – a synthetic instrument that does not use animal skins and built using a fiberglass shell and synthetic drum heads.
Rangan’s early days date back to Gorur village in Hassan district. He gets nostalgic when you quiz him about Gorur that is famous for more than one reason. Like any youngster, Rangan enjoyed playing outdoor games like gilli-danda, lagori and goli. “I spent early part of my childhood in Gorur. I was young, energetic and enjoyed playing with my friends. Those were the days of abundant natural resources and we used to eat mangoes, bettadahunise hannu, guwa, gooseberries and blueberries by climbing and plucking them from the trees. I was fine in my studies I guess.”
Rangan’s tryst with classical music began when he was in middle school. One Vidwan H V Venkateshaiah happened to be his first teacher who would come to Gorur from Holenarispur to teach music to Rangan and a couple of other students. “Those were the days I really I enjoyed,” Rangan says and quickly adds that the family later moved to Mysuru. During my 7th standard after an initial setback, I became more interested in studies. I used to play cricket and I was very fond of cycling. I did well in my 7th standard exam and got admission into high school in DMS, Mysuru. My learning of vocal music continued after some initial problems in finding a good vocal teacher in Mysuru.”
Behind every successful person, there is a strong driving force. Rangan recalls his parents’ contribution that helped him realize what his priorities were. “I was fortune I had one of the most amazing parents. They always trusted me and let me do what I liked to do. My father B. Krishnaiyengar was a high school teacher and he taught me the values of simplicity and compassion. He was a scholar, a kind hearted and soft spoken person. I don’t remember to have heard a single harsh word from him even from my young age. I imbibed the values of courage and persistence from my mother. My parents encouraged me to pursue my dual interests in music and physics by extending all possible help and support. I am ever grateful to them for what I am today,” he says while trying to drive home a point.
He may have achieved so many things over the years, but Rangan is not the one to accept it. A firm believer in ‘The more you achieve, the more is left’, Rangan says,
The answer is both yes and no. I am not able to achieve what I wished to achieve as a musician but I am quite happy that I could create a new generation synthetic mrudanga which no one else could do. It has given me a sense of fulfillment and purpose to my life as I am able to save lives. Here again, there is still so much more to do and hence there is no scope for complacency.”
Life is all about being good to others and Rangan knows what it takes to be a good human being. “Life has taught me to do whatever best I can do to help animals, humans and the environment. I became a vegan seven years back and I continue to spread awareness about veganism through campaigns, talks and audio-visual presentations. My entire family is involved in these activities. I wish to work for the collective good of our society and my personal interests are only next to this. I am seriously contemplating to use classical music to promote these causes in a big way.”
There is science behind every aspect of man’s existence and Rangan is awestruck at the wonders of the universe. “There are so many hidden secrets in this Universe and we are still at our infancy in our understanding of the physical world. But I believe that science should benefit mankind, animals and the environment and should not turn destructive to them.” A scientist par excellence and an exponent of music, Rangan doesn’t believe in complicity, he loves to remain a simple man.
Q.Schooling and college.
My admission into DMS was definitely a turning point in my life. I had T. N. Venkataramana (one of the world renowned mathematicians of today and winner of the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar award) and a few other brilliant friends who motivated me to develop an interest in physics. My interest in physics was very deep and I used to read a lot of physics books outside of the regular academic syllabus. I finished my 10th standard exam with flying colors and continued my PUC in Sharada Vilas College, Mysuru, with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology as subjects. I did my B.Sc in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics from Yuvaraja’s college, Mysuru. I was a top ranking student and was a recipient of the Karnataka state Govt’s merit scholarship. After my BSc, I went to IIT, Madras for pursuing my MSc degree in Physics and continued there and obtained my doctorate degree as well.
Q.You have a PhD. Could you please explain?
As I mentioned, after my M.Sc in Physics I continued to do my PhD at IIT, Madras. My PhD was in the field of microwave antennas and my research was purely theoretical in nature. During my PhD, I published three papers in the IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation. It took almost 6 years for me to complete my thesis work.
Q.It seems you are a specialist in the field of RF design. Explain?
During my post graduate degree course in physics, I got attracted to microwave physics and did my M.Sc project in microwave antennas. My project guide then asked me if I was interested to do my PhD in this subject and also offered me a post of project associate. I grabbed this opportunity and started working in the field of Antenna theory. Thus began my journey into Radio frequency (RF) design. I later worked in many industries which further strengthened my RF design capabilities. Currently I work as Director-wireless R&D, Melange Systems Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru.
Q.Something about your musical journey. Do you relish it?
I began my music lessons at a very young age from Vidwan H.V. Venkateshaiah, Komanduri Seshadri and Prof. R. Vishveshwaran and staged my first performance when I was 12. I continued my advanced lessons in music under the guidance of Ganakalabhushana, T. Puttaswamiah (brother of violin maestro T. Chowdiah), and established myself as a performing artiste, and a radio artiste. In the year 1979, I passed the senior music examination securing II rank and subsequently during the year 1982, I passed the proficiency (Vidwat) examination in music securing I rank. I had also the great privilege of learning music from vidwans like Dr. S. Ramanathan and Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman at Madras and Prof. R. Vishveshwaran at Mysore. I also learnt Hindusthani music, from Pundit Krishanand, a reputed teacher and scholar in Chennai. I have given several performances in many Sabhas in South India. I perform regularly over AIR. My interest in music and physics led me to investigate certain basic aspects of our music. In 1999, I developed a mathematical basis for determining the relative frequencies and fundamental properties of the swaras of the Indian musical scale and developed a systematic approach for finding the Sruthibedha possibilities of ragas. Further, I devised a numbering scheme for Kramaswara ragas and developed an analysis for the computation of the number of Upanga and Bhashaanga Janya ragas. I have also developed a computer program that can determine the Sruthibedha possibilities of a given raga or scale. However, I think my biggest contribution to Carnatic music is the creation of the S.R.I. Mrudanga – a synthetic Mrudanga that does not use animal skins and built using a fiberglass shell and synthetic drumheads. It is a culmination my passion for animal rights, science and music. This Mrudanga is now gaining wide popularity and is already being used. I have always enjoyed listening to and performing music. When you are able to perform at your best, the satisfaction derived is simply beyond words!! I immensely enjoy listening to good classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic.
Q.Performers and non-performers. What is the difference like?
Some artistes prefer to only teach and not perform. This may be for various reasons such as a non-cooperative voice or a mindset that does not relish publicity or a spiritual standpoint that they must sing only for the God. All I would like to say is it is a matter of personal preference of a musician.
Q.Your favourite musicians.
I do not have one single musician to name but I admire many musicians for their varied styles and approaches to music. Vocal music is what I like the most. I like Dr. Balamurali Krishna for his creative music and unique vocal style, T. N. Seshagopalan for his breath- taking brigas, scholarship and mastery over rhythm, K.V. Narayanaswamy for his classicism, my Guru Tanjore Kalyanaraman for his outstanding manodharma and emotive rendering, to name a few. Among the youngsters, I like Sanjay Subramaniam for his bold and original style of singing filled with vast scholarship. There are many less popular musicians who are great performers.
Q.Positive and negative side of Varadarangan.
I think perseverance is my strength and inability to say a ‘no’ to someone is my weakness.
What is essential for one to be successful in life?
I think passion, effort and perseverance are the most essential qualities one should have to be successful in life.
Your connections with Mysuru.
Mysuru is my home! As mentioned I spent a significant part of my life in Mysuru and most of my education was at Mysuru. We still have our house in Mysuru and we visit this place whenever time permits.
Honors and Awards:
- First prize (Tamboora Award) in the Pallavi singing competition conducted by the Gayana Samaja, Bangalore, during 1985.
- ‘The promising young artiste award’ in the talent promotion concerts conducted by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai, during the Gokulashtami Sangeetha Utsavam, 1984.
- Received the Shasthra Kausthubha award from ANANYA G.M.L.Cultural
Academy for the year 2008 on 8/6/2008.
- Received the Bengaluru Ratna award and Ragasudhalaya Puraskara from Bengaluru Ratna Newspaper group and Ragasudhalaya charitable trusts respectively, during 2010.
- Received the Gana Shasthra Shiromani award from Sri Rama Centre of
Performing Arts, Bangalore, February, 2014.
- Received the title Gana Kalamrutha Prapoorna from Srirama Seva Prathishtana Trust, Amruthahalli, Bangalore , during April 2016.
- Received the Karnataka Kalashree award from the Karnataka Sangeetha Nruthya Academy, Govt. of Karnataka, Bengaluru, for the year 2016-2017.
– R MURALI