Pulse in Conversation with Ranjana Ghatak
Ranjana is a Hindustani vocalist, who trains under Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and is a full-time performer, teacher, dance accompanist and composer. The Odissi Ensemble is very fortunate to have danced to Ranjana’s glorious vocals.
A North London born and raised second generation British Asian, Ranjana was introduced to music by both her parents. They met through music and Ranjana grew up listening to her mother play the lap steel guitar and her father sing.
Ranjana, ten years ago you took the decision to go full time into music, what tipped it for you?
It was mainly an instinctive decision. I was working part time in music administration and started to find that I wanted to spend more of my time in music. I took a leap of faith when I could see that was where my heart and focus was. I had a run of several projects prior to that which also gave me the confidence to take a chance.
You launched your album The Butterfly Effect in September 2020; just describe for readers what they would hear?
The Butterfly Effect was an exploration of my personal journey of transformation. It explores the cycle of endings and beginnings. It starts with a prayer to Kali. The track has a feeling of devotion and intensity that comes with change. It goes to Hidden Tombs, a song about finding hidden gifts in tough times. It moves onto the album title track, which has more of an uplifting vibe to it.
The next three tracks were inspired by my Hindustani vocal background. Kabir and Meerabai are poets/mystics whose writing I have always been drawn to. The songs reflect the journey of seeking, soul searching and heart opening.
The final piece is a prayer to the sun – the melody was composed by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan. I heard the piece when visiting his college in Northern California before teaching there. The piece is just voice and electronic/drone effects and the intention was to bring the feeling of a new dawn.
The whole album is predominantly made up of voice, bass guitar and guitar. I really enjoyed working with producer/bass player Liran Donin and Jack Ross on guitar. They are incredible artists and most importantly great human beings so it was a total honour and pleasure to work with them.
Can you see a place for Indian spiritual music (bhajans) taking their place in popular music as gospel has done?
I can and that would be an interesting experience to see! With globalisation and so many people inspired by the healing arts of the East I can imagine there being a lot more acceptance and space for it now.
What does success mean to you, and is it important?
I probably have many different answers for this, but what comes to mind is feeling connected and passionate in the work we do, hopefully with a mindset that contributes to the world around us and having space and time for our personal well being and loved ones.
What music/artists would you listen to off-work?
In addition to listening to a lot of Indian Classical music I’ve recently been listening to Pa Salieu, Tank and the Bangas, Jacob Collier, Grand Tapestry, Masego, Lianne La Havas and PJ Morton.