Among a small but growing band of cerebral musicians in Carnatic music, with a scholarly bent of mind and a proclivity for expanding their repertoire in meaningful directions not explored by the majority, is Prema Rangarajan, who has a PhD from Madras University for her work on the Sanskrit compositions of 25 vaggeyakaras from Annamacharya to MD Ramanathan. This A grade artist of AIR and Doordarshan has been a regular performer in the concert circuit for several years now.
Prema has had the benefit of tutelage under some stalwarts of Carnatic music including S Rajam, Sulochana Pattabhiraman, VV Srivatsa and Chengalpattu Ranganathan. She trained with Kadayam Krishnamurthy (and TS Raghavan at Delhi University before she moved to Chennai) and Lakshmi Natarajan. The wide variety in the mentorship she has received has helped her to enhance her skills in a whole range of aspects of Carnatic music—such as rare ragas and compositions, ragam-tanam-pallavi, traditional pathantara and aesthetic nuances.
Prema’s contributions in AIR’s efforts to archive different compositional forms like varnam, tillana, javali and paripadal as well as rare kritis by many vaggeyakaras (along with her guru Sulochana Pattabhiraman), not to mention Tyagaraja’s utsava sampradaya kritis (guided by Dr M Balamuralikrishna and TS Parthsarathi) have been noteworthy.
Her scholarly output also includes lecture demonstrations on manodharma in raga, kriti and swara singing, pallavi rendering, Dikshitar kritis and Tamil compositions for Pondicherry University and Annamalai University on different occasions under the UGC umbrella. She has also presented lec-dems at the Music Academy and Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai.
The winner of numerous awards, Prema Rangarajan has released a few devotional music CDs. She has been a quiet, unfussy practitioner of solid music for decades