Diverse styles, unique skills

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Memorable: (Clockwise from top left) S. Sowmya, Vijayalakshmi and Yuko Matobha, B. Kannan and S. Sundar.
Memorable: (Clockwise from top left) S. Sowmya, Vijayalakshmi and Yuko Matobha, B. Kannan and S. Sundar.


Recitals of eight vainikas on the second day of ‘Viswa Veena Yagna’ proved to be an enriching experience for rasiks.

It was a feast on Sunday last, the second day of the nine-day ‘Viswa Veena Yagna,’ organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts, New Delhi, The Veena Foundation, New Delhi in association with Indira Gandhi Rasthriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal, at the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore. Eight veena artists presented recitals from 9 a.m. onwards, each showcasing a different style. Prof T.T. Narendran, roped in at the last moment in the place of Thanjavur Ramdas, displayed his deep rooted belief in classicism when he gave a decent portrayal of Manirangu followed by ‘Raanidi Radu’ (Tyagaraja, Adi). He did not use any pickup. ‘Deva Deva’ (Mayamalavagowla, Rupakam, Swati) with neraval and swarams was a neat presentation.

Perfect speedy forays

S. Sivakumar of Tiruchi came with an instrument that did not resemble the veena. With no yali and a semblance of a kudam, it looked like a parrot without its wings. However, the Sankarabharanam he played was authentic and bore the stamp of his guru N. Ravikiran. ‘Sarojadala’ (Syama Sastry, Adi) was well executed. With absolute control over the instrument, his speedy forays were just perfect. Swati Tirunal’s Navarathri kriti, ‘Pahi Parvathi Nandini’(Arabhi) was an apt choice. B. Ganapathyraman (mridangam) and N. Rajaraman (ghatam), accompaniments for both the recitals, proved their mettle by changing their approach to suit the two distinct styles of veena playing.

It was heartening to listen to S. Sundar of the Chittibabu school. Known for his deft touches and spuritamatic playing, Sundar captivated the audience with a well etched Nalinakanthi (‘Manavinala,’Adi, Tyagaraja) and went on to play Danyasi followed by Bhadrachalam Ramadas’s kriti. There were glimpses of his guru when he played Kalyani (‘Vasudevayani,’ Adi, Tyagaraja). The staccato style of playing kalpanaswarms unique to their school, took listeners on a nostalgic trip to the days of his guru.

A pleasant surprise was N. Vijayalakshmi, a seasoned campaigner, with her Japanese disciple, Yuko Matobha, clad in a silk sari. A well-planned concert it was, with ‘Siddhi Vinayakam’ (Shanmukhapriya, Rupakam, Dikshitar) as the first piece. After a liberal dose of swaras, she continued with ‘Sarasiruhasanapriye’ (Nattai, Adi, Puliyur Duraiswamy Iyer). Yuko kept pace with her for Tyagaraja’s ‘Anupama Gunambudi.’ Vijayalakshmi’s Kalyani was the afternoon’s toast. Replete with a judicious mixture of fast and slow phrases, it was an aural treat. Equally good was her treatment of ‘Pankajalochana’ (Swati, Mishram). R. Ramesh who played for both the concerts displayed controlled artistry. His nadais and arudhis were breathtaking.

The evening session began with Bharadwaj Raman (grandson of S. Balachandar), currently being trained by Padmavathy Ananthagopalan. For one moment it was as though, SB himself had descended on the dais. ‘Bharadu’ as he is known to many, played ragas Gowla (‘Sri Maha Ganapthi,’ Dikshitar) Kedaragowla (‘Tulasibhilva,’ Tyagaraja) and Mayamalavagowla (‘Meru Samana,’ Tyagaraja), traversing through the length and breadth of the veena with consummate ease. His pulls and playing in the pit near the yali during the alapana were typical of his grandfather. Spontaneity was his hallmark and that was evident in Kalyani (‘Bhajre Rechitha,’ Dikshitar) and Kapi (‘Mee Valla,’ Tyagaraja) that he played.

S.P. Ramh was impressive in his delineation of Lathangi and Bhairavi. It was a free flow of swaras for the kritis, ‘Mari Vere’ (Patnam, Kanda Chapu) and ‘Lalithe Sri’ (Tyagaraja, Adi) respectively. Ramh could not resist playing tanam for both these ragams that was soothing. V. Rajasekar (mridangam), who has mastered the art of accompanying the veena, along with Ravichandran (ghatam) embellished both the concerts using the right proportions of the necessary ingredients.

Another surprise was S. Sowmya, donning the role of a vainika. Her Varali (‘Eti Janma,’ Tyagaraja), Khamas (‘Sujana Jeevana,’ Tyagaraja) and Saveri (‘Parashakthi,’ Tyagaraja) elaborations were proof enough of her gnanam. The veena was almost singing and that was an enriching experience. She was quite at ease and attributed it to the rigorous training she had acquired under Prof. S. Ramanathan.

Final lap

B. Kannan took over the baton for the final lap. The man’s energy had to be seen to be believed, considering that as the festival coordinator, he literally carried the day on his shoulders, ushering, announcing, emceeing, honouring, etc. He started off with a lively presentation of ‘Vageeswari Vani’ (Saraswati, Harikesanallur). Poongulam Subramaniam (mridangam) and S. Karthik (ghatam) who had earlier played a subdued role to suit Sowmya, changed the gait for Kannan engaging in a rhythmic revelry.

Kannan chose Kanakangi to play the only RTP of the day. With ‘n’ permutations and combinations available when you play a vivadhi, Kannan was through with almost (n-1) interesting and imaginative phrases. He effectively used all the three strings to bring in a mesmerising effect in the tanam. The pallavi, ‘Sruthilaya Rupini Mampahi-Viswa Veena Yagna Priye’ in Rettai Kalai Adi was interestingly conceived.

Listening to eight distinctly different styles of veena on a single day was an unusual experience. However, for a worshipper of the veena it affirmed what he always felt – amplification through a pickup robs the instrument of its true sound. It has to be understood that veena is basically a chamber instrument to be played mikeless for a small group of discerning rasikas.

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