Three vainikas spoke of various banis to a receptive audience.

Catch em’ young. Garner youth force and get them into the rasikas fold by “exposing students to various Indian art forms.” This is Svanubhava’s professed aim, which is into its 6th year now. School children have always been Svanubhava’s happy targets every year.

Children here, there and everywhere! Yes, many groups of school children from the distant Perambur to the nearby R.A. Puram had mustered strong, guided by their teachers, to watch and participate in this annual event which was held at the Rukmini Arangam at Kalakshetra, Tiruvanmiyur.

As in the past, this event was held for three days and included music concerts, dance performances, lec-dems and staging of short plays. On the second day, vainikas Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, , Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi and P. Vasanth Kumar presented the various banis associated with the veena and offered glimpses of the prevalent teaching methodologies.

“Veena banis belonged to the Southern States of India”, they said. Jayalakshmi mentioned that dispelling the ‘kural-viral’ disjoint was a must for rasikas, and elaborated, “Rasikas expect us vainikas to play kritis as if they were being sung (Vaaipaattu Polavae), to be more precise. In Carnatic music, there are no special compositions exclusively for instruments.”

The pattern followed was to play audio clippings of stalwarts and then talk about the salient points of that particular school. Subtle yet decipherable variations were on show when top-notch artists such as Doraisami Iyengar, Veenai Dhanammal, M. A. Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar, K. S. Narayanasami, S. Balachandar, Ayyagiri Someshwara Rao, Emani Sankara Sastri, R. K. Suryanarayana, Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer played (and were heard) for a few minutes. The children were able to single-out Balachandar and did well in promptly identifying the songs and ragas that were played.

The audience was witness to many plucking styles, the spreading of fingers on frets in different manners, the ability to pull the strings to realise an exact swarasthanam and certain exhaustive/limited usage of tala strings.

Jayalakshmi recalled how Cheran Mahadevi Subramanya Sastrigal used to sing in the same manner as he would play. Padmavathi said Balachandar was a phenomenon, who metamorphosed the concept of veena playing. Vasanth Kumar also admired the contrasting style that Balachandar had introduced and mentioned specifically about the higher pitch maintained by Dhanammal and reasoned out the need for do so. “She belong to the mike-less era.”

The eminent vidwans conducted this session in a virtually extempore manner. They also made these observations -- deft handling at good speed without slips becomes the hallmark of a great player, highlighted the usage of three strings at a time to provide a pleasant experience (sitar type) and how Chittibabu could present ‘Raghuvamsudha’ with infinite variations, concert after concert. The session came to an end with a Q & A routine.

Visitors’ Speak

Noelia from Spain had just stepped in by “accident” and was impressed and happy to taste a slice of the Indian culture.

Children from the KRM School, Perambur, were brought to the venue to be “given a taste and a true feel of our cultural systems and get to listen to Carnatic music and discover different varieties of the arts,” said their teacher, Vasumathi Govind. The children said they had “learnt” and “experienced” a lot by coming here. A young boy, a first-time-visitor, was embarrassed about his attire (jeans) as most of the others were in seen in a veshti.

Art personality and one of the organisers, V. R. Devika, had this to say; “A great attempt! It has been on for many years now. The commonest among the common children get access to the arts and what variety! You cannot expect them to get converted into cutcheri or drama audiences straightaway. Many other factors come into play. But now, they are discussing music and dance among themselves. The intention is to create a flutter in their minds and hearts. They have lived these moments. I have had 32 years of experience of working with children and I tell you it is not as easy as you think.”

Veena player Shobana Swaminathan added another dimension “What a relief for these kids from some mind-numbing programmes on TV! I think their tastes will change for the better.”

(sivakumar2004@gmail.com)