Archana Upadhyaya with P Samanvi
Archana Upadhyaya with P Samanvi

Catching the eye of Carnatic music connoisseurs is a young and upcoming singing duo, Archana and Samanvi, known as the Lathangi Sisters. These teenage vocalists each of whom hails from small towns near Udupi, are both currently based in Udupi. 

While most singing duos in classical music are blood relations, usually siblings, Archana Upadhyaya and P Samanvi, started out as friends and students of the same teacher. Now, they are co-performers and living in the same home doing gurukula-vaasam i.e. living in the guru's house and learning their art. 

Archana who is 17-year-old, and Samanvi, 15, began learning carnatic vocal music from 2006 and 2008 respectively, under guru Vasanthalakshmi Hebbar Later, they began training under their guru Vasanthalakshmi's daughter, the late Ranjani Hebbar from 2010 to 2012.

Ranjani was then a young, fast-rising classical musician based in Chennai but passed away, prematurely and tragically, in 2013. Ranjani's parents, Vasanthalakshmi and musician Professor Aravinda Hebbar, were heartbroken. “Nothing can compensate for this loss of our dear daughter. We had many dreams for Ranjani. 

We could have spent the rest of our lives in this grief. However, we decided to try and fill the void in our lives by bringing home these two girls and nurturing them as our own children. It was also our way of contributing to the world of music, which our daughter Ranjani loved so deeply but in which her journey was cut short. We believe she is looking from above and blessing the girls," the Hebbar couple say. 

Professor Hebbar, also a musician, joined his wife in training the girls in Carnatic music.
He says: "I want them to receive the best training possible in this field." So, in 2015, Hebbar took them to Chennai for advanced training under Sangeetha Kalanidhi Chitravina Ravikiran. Since then, the Lathangi sisters spend a few months every year in Chennai training under maestro Ravikiran. They have also received some music knowledge from flautist Shanthala Subramaniam. 

The girls Archana and Samanvi reveal: "We are immensely grateful for this thorough grooming in music and for all this love and affection being showered on us in this new home of ours. We also get to meet our own parents regularly."

The duo has been performing vocal music on stage and at other platforms since 2014. They were referred to as Lathangi Sisters by a senior rasika in 2014 after their performance - because they were being nurtured in the house of Professor Hebbar which is called Lathangi. And the name has stuck since then.

Archana and Samanvi who are now in class 12 and 10 respectively, say: "It is indeed tough to balance school and a demanding art like classical music. Fortunately, we are doing well in school and getting good grades even while pursuing our aim of learning the art as comprehensively as possible and performing to the best of our ability."

They have notched up a series of achievements after that. They have also performed at prestigious platforms. Samanvi received the CCRT scholarship since 2014. Both Archana and Samanvi are the recipients of yearly scholarship from Ranjani Memorial Trust, Udupi since 2015. Samanvi got a cash award and Ist Prize (Rs. 50,000/-) under Junior Category in Sangeet Yatra, conducted by World Music Conservatory, Bangalore and Sri Sankara TV Channel Reality show in April 2015. Archana received second Prize (Rs. 30,000/-) in the same contest. 

Samanvi got Ist Prize in State Level Carnatic Classical Music Competition conducted by Kamala T.Avadhani Foundation, Bangalore in Oct. 2016. Both secured first place in ‘Yuva Sangeet Samraat Junior’ for Duet Singing in Carnatic Vocal organised by Sri Sankara TV Channel and Carnatic Premier League (CPL) in July 2016 at Chennai.

Archana and Samanvi are clear about their future and the career path they foresee for themselves: "After finishing school, we will acquire at least one academic degree because a basic degree is essential whatever profession one pursues. However, music is our passion and we want to become full-time, professional musicians. We have to do rigorous sadhana but enjoy it as we love music."