“Mridangist” Accomplishes Life Long Goal After Retirement

Ranjit Panchacharam

Ranjit Panchacharam


By Thara Narasimhan

HOUSTON: Arangetram or the debut performance is the ultimate goal for any performing artist. Unflinching desire combined with determination and dedication were the foundation for the grand triumph behind the Mridangam Arangetram that was rendered by Ranjit Panchacharam. His family provided wholehearted support and a sprightly performance marked the momentous occasion. Immense discipline and hard work was evident in the presentation and initial goal that was set thirty-three years ago blossomed in front of an appreciative audience. Ranjit was exposed to music from early childhood, as his mother was soprano singer and pianist.  Although he started learning many years ago his full time commitment to the art came after he fulfilled all his family obligations and career demands. He relentlessly pursued his goal to become a stage performer after his retirement.

Ranjit is a student of “Ramji” Shanker Ayyar, the notable Mridangam Vidwan in Houston. Ramji has been an integral part of carnatic music exponents in the Houston community both as Mridangist and Vocalist.  He showcased his student’s debut performance as a vocalist with his own inimitable style of singing.  The guru selected brilliant compositions with variety of rhythms to exhibit flow of various intonations that reflected his student’s talent. For over three decades Ramji has trained several students in percussion. He is an enthusiastic teacher who can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and impart a love of learning reinforced with a good sense of humor. Ranjit Panchacharam was the first disciple of Ramji Shanker Ayyar.

From the very start to finish it was a meticulously well- planned program. At the very outset G.P.Luckshmanan (Lucky) welcomed all to his father’s premier performance. The performance commenced with a short prayer ceremony by Manicka Bhattar that was followed with a prayer song by Vaishnavi Sharveswara.  Sarojini Vinayagalingam introduced the artistes and Dr. Sakuntalai Nanthakumar took over as the emcee for the evening that was remarkable.

The repertoire was set standard beginning with a Varnam piece that had appealing kalpana swaras. Excellent expansion of ragas preceded most of the songs that were rendered by Ramji with enthusiastic presentation and Ranjit displayed the nuances of the beat precisely and perfectly.  Beautiful compositions of Saint Thyagaraja, “Manasa Etulo”, “Ada Modi Galade”, Periaswamy Thooran ever popular song, ”Muruga, Muruga” in Saveri ragam and a dazzling tamil song in Poorvi Kalyani “Karanam Kehttu Vaadi” a composition of Gopalakrishna Bharathiyar were rendered in succession of one another. The magnum opus piece the Thani Avarthanam was provided soon after Ramji elaborated Thodi raga alapana followed by kriti. Here the percussion artist exhibited his skill and proficiency. This was done exceedingly well by Ranjit that was evident when a thunderous culmination of the Korvai ended, a thunderous applause followed.

Vaishnavi Sharveswara the young and accomplished Vocalist and Bharatanatyam dancer not only provided Tambura support but sprinkled a beautiful rendition of Raga Hamsanandhi kriti, “Srinivasa Thiruvengada”, a tamil composition of Papanasam Sivan.  Distinguished violinist Dr. Deepa Ramachandran provided melodious support on the violin that led the harmonious blend of the concert.

Eminent Attorney and long time family friend George Willy greeted Panchacharam and congratulated him on his performance. He quoted “this is a momentous event presenting the Tamil culture” and recognized that one could not resist tapping their feet to the beats of the Mridangam of the extraordinary performer.

Ranjit is a consummate musician and a favorite vocalist of the Sri Lankan community presenting old Tamil movie hits in their gatherings. He also learned to play Tabla from David Courtney and Sitar from Srinivas Koumonduri and aims to clasp those art forms under his belt as well.

Celebrity Musical Couple David Courtney and Chandrakantha Courtney were the chief guests for the evening.  David made an opening statement that the concert was exclusively exceptional and extreme skill was shown by Ranjit.  He highlighted on the Guru Sishya tradition of learning through a Guru that is still in practice in learning classical music. He added that Shanker Ayyar’s extraordinary talent of singing for his own student’s performance was a remarkable trait.

Guru Ramji Shankar Ayyar presented a certificate of graduation and congratulated his student whose passion for the art new no boundaries and never let go of his goal.

Shanthi Panchacharam, wife of Ranjit and their son Shawn Panchacharam proposed a vote of thanks to many of those who helped to stage the performance.  Shawn commented about his father living unto the proverbs “Age is no barrier to achieve one’s goal and “Where there is will, there is away”, that was evident through the outstanding performance.  Shanthi Pancharacharam was felicitated as the woman behind the well accomplished Mridangist, who took to the stage that day.

Indeed Ranjit Panchacharam proved to live the words of Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it.”