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Thursday, March 08, 2001

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Flair for music

"ONCE CONSIDERED as sacred as the Vedas, the veena somehow seems to have lost its pride of place today. There are a lot of talented artistes but no takers. The number of people attending veena concerts has dwindled considerably, despite talented artistes taking to it," laments veena artiste Revathy Krishna, quite candidly. Her latest endeavour to keep the instrument alive has been to record film songs on the veena.

Hailing from a family of musicians, who belonged to the sishya parampara of Saint Tyagaraja, music is an inseparable part of her. Revathy chose the veena as her medium of expression for its unique sound and depth. "They say the veena has a vocal quality," she explains and adds, "But for perfecting any instrument, a strong foundation in vocal music is necessary." She had her vocal training from Therali Ramaswami Iyengar in Madurai, where she spent her childhood. At the age of 12, she started taking veena lessons from Sundaram Iyer, and since then there has been no looking back. With a degree from the Government Music College under her belt, and tutelage from Sharada Shivanand for the past 15 years, Revathy, who follows the Thanjavur bani, has been a regular in the concert circles across the country.

The recipient of several awards, including the Kalaimamani from the State Government, Revathy is also an A grade artiste with the All India Radio.

Talking about her love for music, she reminisces, "At home, we used to celebrate Bahula Panchami every month and hold aradhanas. Just listening to the singers was so inspiring. That is how I learnt many rare Tyagaraja kritis."

Her greatest influence has been her grandmother, Andal Amma, who "was an encyclopaedia on Tyagaraja kritis. She knew every song and its meaning."

In fact, Revathy has recordings of some rare kritis in her possession.

An uncanny knack of grasping a tune after "listening to it only once" and five hours of practice every day have aided Revathy in her musical pursuit. However, Revathy chose to change tack, though temporarily, and decided to play film songs on the veena. The three audio cassettes released recently by M. S. Viswanathan, feature evergreen melodies from Sivaji and MGR films, and hits of Ilaiyaraja (till the 1980s).

But why film songs? She has this to say. "Of late, the veena is not getting enough exposure. It is somehow not reaching the people. It depressed me a lot. Then I thought I should take the veena to the masses. And what better way than film songs? They have the maximum reach today, the only medium which people are able to relate to and appreciate."

She continues, "I believe that anything with a musical content, be it a film song or a ghazal, can be performed on any instrument. I must add that I chose Sivaji and MGR songs for the older generation and Ilaiyaraja hits for the next generation."

It is quite an experience to listen to such classics as "Ado Anda Paravai Pola" or "Maasila Unmai Kadhalae...'' on the veena. In fact, her show for Jaya TV on March 8, for International Women's Day, will be a 'film' concert.

Revathy has had abundant support from her husband, whose family owns silk looms in and around Kanchipuram. "In fact he is the fifth generation," she says. You can sense the obvious pride in her voice when she talks about her son Satkrith, who is studying to be a fashion designer at NIFT. "He is also musically oriented."

So what next? Songs of A. R. Rahman? Revathy Krishna smiles and says, "Wait and see".


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