ARTICLE IN “AMUDASURABHI” MAGAZINE


Anuradha Kannan of Podhigai TV fame recently authored an article for the reputed Tamil Magazine AMUDASURABHI titled “Karuviyum Kalaingargalum,” featuring various carnatic artists and their relationship with the instrument they played. We were asked to write about our bonding (more appropriately, obsession!) with our veenas. Given below is our writeup in English from which has Anuradha interpreted the piece for the article.

VEENA AND US

Ever since we remember, music has been a part and parcel of our lives. During the impressionable stage of our lives, we had been exposed to music steeped in aesthetics and classicism.

Veena has had a revered place in our families and hence it was no surprise that we decided to take up the instrument as a vehicle for our musical expression.

Due credit should go to our revered teachers who have given us a completely unique perspective of the mother of all instruments – the Veena.

To us this instrument has ceased being an inanimate object for long. It is our best friend and it actually “talks” to us every day. It seeks constant pampering. If we fail to practice for a day, there is a sense of discomfort when we play on the instrument the next day. It feels as if the instrument seeks not to respond to our touch!! It needs coaxing and cajoling before it starts responding.

However when we are stressed or troubled, it is our Veena that we turn to. During such times of distress, playing the Veena gives us a lot of comfort and restores equanimity and peace. Surprisingly, under such stressful conditions, it is our friend that sympathizes with us; it needs no coaxing at that point. Playing the Veena becomes a completely de-stressing activity and the environment is filled with positive energy.

When you have such a friend, one would like to increase its tribe. Not surprisingly we have acquired a number of Veenas over the years, and many of these acquisitions can be aptly described as “impulsive”. But we have no regrets in indulging in such an impulsive act!!

Each instrument that we have is very, very special. Our music room is filled with a variety of Veenas, mostly the Tanjore variety. We have indeed built a family of Veenas.

There is one particular Veena that was presented by a music connoisseur for a token amount of Re 1. It is a Tanjore Veena and is more than a century old. It is embedded with ivory strips and the Veena has a unique tonal quality of its own. We are very partial towards this instrument and do not encourage anyone to touch the same. It is only available as a visual treat. Such is our attachment to Veenas that our possessiveness leaves our kith and kin, often, a trifle embarrassed!!

The need for enhanced sound and portability made us look to avenues whereby we could use electronics in a more purposeful manner. In this endeavor, we found great enterprise in Radel Electronics, who have created the Sunadavinodini, an electronic and portable version of the Saraswathi Veena. We have been using this instrument for our concerts in India and abroad. The public response has been very positive and we have had a number of impromptu Q&A sessions on this with members of the audience, particularly from the overseas communities.

However, when we play in solitude in our prayer room we use the original acoustic veena(without the contact mike) but for a concert, as professionals it is our duty to ensure that the clarity and volume of sound reaches every nook and corner of the auditorium and for us the electronic veena has been a boon.

Though we keep indulging in our hobby of collecting veena there are some identified ones which are handled specifically by one of us. They are more a personal possession and are seldom used by the other – not even during practice. This brings more familiarity to the instrument. We are not comfortable with outsiders touching or playing our instruments but we do make an exception for our own students and allow them to play on some of our Veenas especially during concert engagements.

Our Veenas are our treasure. There is an inextricable bond. Veenas, by design, are very fragile and one needs to spend a lot of time and care in keeping them clean and in perfect tune. They demand a unique sense of responsibility from you. Not a single day goes by without our realizing how much our veena has enriched our life, right from bringing us together as life partners, to giving us the opportunity to serve the cause of Carnatic music in our own small way. It thus goes without saying that our Veenas are and will always remain our best friends forever.

Jeyaraaj and Jaysri

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