REVIEW A tribute to the veena maestro Veene Seshanna was a recollection of his life and works

Veeneya Bedagu, a tribute to the legendary musician Veena Seshanna based on his life and works, was organised by the Kala Premi Foundation in Bangalore recently. Divided into three segments of veena, vocal and dance recitals, the programme sought to highlight the erudition, versatility and virtuosity inherent in the compositions of Veena Seshanna.

The first segment of the evening, presided over by Prof.G. Venkatasubbiah and directed by Prof. Mysore V. Subramanya, commenced with a fairly exhaustive talk by the latter, elucidating the accomplishments and greatness of Veena Seshanna. A veena recital by Rajalakshmi Thirunarayanan and Ratnaprabha Krishna, accompanied by M. Gururaj on the mridanga, followed. The format of the presentation was akin to that of a lecture demonstration, and the special features of the pieces included were elucidated individually. Ranging from swarajathis to varnas and thillanas, seven items were presented by the accomplished senior artistes.

The swarajathis set to Kamboji raga and adi tala, and Karnataka Kapi in khanda jathi ata thala, aesthetically and technically appealing, were also meant to impart a depth of knowledge and expertise to aspiring artistes. The varna set to Saveri raga and mishra jhampa thala that followed was gamaka infused and studded with occasional datu and panchama varjya usages, and suffused with raga bhava. The ragamalika varna in mishra triputa thala was a bright mosaic of melodies that were distinct but coalesced effectively with the whole. While the initial part was anchored in Behag, the inclusion of as many as 14 ragas such as Hindolam, Malavasri, Kanada, Shahana, Natanarayani, and Abhogi in the elaborate charanam created an attractive and scholarly blend of rare and well-known ragas.

The tillana in Hindustani Kapi, set to an unusual mishra chapu thala and replete with gently unfolding rhythms, was an exquisite piece played evocatively. The Darbari Kanada tillana, resplendent with embellishments such as the gopuccha yathi and lilting phrases, was followed by a beautiful rendition of the timeless classic, the thillana in Jinjhooti, bringing the veena recital to a close.

Vocalist Dr. Sukanya Prabhakar presented the five Kannada kirthanas of Veena Seshanna with percussion support. While only the pallavis of the pieces in Kalyani, Khamas, Kamboji and Jinjhooti were sung, the Nadanamakriya composition was sung in full with devotional fervour. The simple melodies were accentuated by the diversity in talas employed, which were rupaka, mishra chapu, mishra jhampa, adi and mishra chapu again in sequence, and more time and provision of violin accompanied would have further enhanced the learned singer’s exposition.

A short Bharathanatya performance by the students of Nupara under the able guidance of Lalitha Srinivasan, constituted the concluding segment of the programme, demonstrating the variety and adaptability of Veena’s Seshanna’s creations to dance.

On the whole the evening provided valuable insights into the genius of the late vainika and the wide gamut and types of his compositions in a remarkable range of ragas and talas.

It was made amply evident that rich legacy of work bequeathed to posterity by him are of immense value to performing musicians and aspiring ones alike.