The National Veena Festival at the India International Centre

Author: Manjari Sinha

An embodiment of
auspiciousness and prosperity, veena represents the cultural ethos of India.
This oldest Indian instrument adorning the hands of Goddess of learning, Veena
is the mother of all string instruments and the symbol of the fundamental unity
and continuity of music in South and North India. To celebrate the spirituality
and musicality of veena and to restore the place of pride of the veena tradition
in Indian music, the Veena Foundation in collaboration with the Indian Council
Of Cultural Relations (I.C.C.R.), the India International Centre (I.I.C.) and
Carnatic Sangit Sabha organized a two day National Festival of veena at the
I.I.C. under the auspices of Bharatiya Ekata evam vikas Pratishthan (the
Foundation for National Integration through Art and Culture). Notwithstanding all the good intentions and objectives to
promote national integration through veena and to revive and revitalize it’s
music in different traditions of music and with all the commitment of Veena
Foundation to the cause of veena, the festival started well behind the scheduled
time .Dr L.M.Singhavi the chairman of Veena Foundation spoke at length about the
tradition of veena as the ancient heritage of India, and about his dream of
Veena Festival that had come true. The enthusiastic audience who had come to
listen to the veena recitals revolted against more speeches when the chief guest
Shri B.L.Joshi, Lt Governor of Delhi came to the mike after inaugurating the
Veena Festival.

He also agreed with the audience that he himself wanted the
veena recitals not his own speech and just recited the Sarasawti vandana ‘Ya
kundendu tushaar…….’ to flag off the festival.

Shri Mohi Bahauddin Dagar gave a flying start to the veena
Festival with Raga Patdeep on his Rudra veena representing the traditional
Daagar Bani. Recently awarded the prestigious ‘Sanskriti Samman’ Bahauddin Dagar
is the gifted son and disciple of the Rudra veena maestro the late Ustad Zia
Mohiuddin Dagar. The ‘dheer-gambheer’ sonorous tonal quality of his Rudra veena
itself was remarkable. The detailed treatment of the afternoon Raga in the Aalap
-jod sequence specially the gamak ang in the Mandra Saptak was riveting. It was
followed by a Dhrupad composition in Chautaal , a 14 beat cycle that was ably
played by Manmohan Nayak who accompanied him on Pakhavaj.

Tarangini veena, a modern innovation of Dr Suma Sudhindra
was played by her next. An exponent of Emany Cittibabu Style, Suma has been a
disciple of the late Chittibabu. Tarangini veena has a short Dandi for better
reach in faster taans she claims, but the imbalance in its shape and the
shrilled twang in its sound created somewhat negative effect. She didn’t even
bother to tune the veena before starting her concert. She played a kriti in Raga
Nalin Kanti and concluded with raga Simhendra Madhyam, accompanied on Mridangam
by Prem Kumar and on Ghatam by Shri vishnu.

Saraswati Rajgopalan came next to play on the Saraswati veena. She rendered a reposeful aalapanam followed by tanum like the aalap-jod of Hindustaani style in raga Dharmaavati, creating the tuneful background for the Mysore vaasudevachaarya’s composition that followed in Rupak Taal of six beat cycle. Her immaculate skill and imaginative Manodharma made tremendous impact of her creativity. Another impressive artist in the carnatic style was Ganesh who came all the way from Chennai to play his Chitra veena hardly for ten minutes. He played the sublime swarjati of Shyama Shastri in raga Bhairavi and a Swati Tirunal Jaavali in raga Bihaaga and proved that music is all about sensitivity and aesthetic sense. And you can beautifully display it if you have it, even in a short while. Both were ably accompanied on the mridangam by Mr Prem Kumar of Delhi AIR and Mr Rishi on Ghatam.

Ajit Singh and Mustafa Raza played Raga Yaman and
Chaarukeshi respectively onvichitra veena in Hindustaani Style accompaqnied by
Hashmat Ali Khan on Tabala. The inaugural evening concluded with the enchanting
Chitra veena of P. Ganesh as ”Madhurena samaapayeta.”

The second day afternoon was devoted to promote young
amateur artists but there should have been some screening to maintain a certain
standard and avoid mediocrity! The artists this afternoon were Shyamala Bhasker,
Nalini Sampat, S vishvanathan-Sushila Ramaswamy, Prema, Geeta Mohan, Radha, S.
Radhakrishnan and Chidambaram Balasubramanian. A talented member of the
Hansavaahini veena Qurtret, Geeta Mohan sounded up to the mark while she played
‘Giriraj sudha..’, a piece in Shuddha Dhanyasi and a detailed aalapanam in the
melodious Aabheri (Bhimapalaasi). S. Radhakrishnan from Tanjavur Bani gang and
played together the Devi Stuti, but neither could impress the audience.

The program was conceived with best of intentions, but
seemed to be highly disorganized. The valedictory address and the concluding
speeches again talked about spirituality, but one should realize that it is
evoked only by sublime music, with utmost ‘Shruti shuddhata’, which was missing
most of the time, in the two day long Veena Arpanam. The festival was a success
only by the enthusiastic response of the people who came in large numbers both
the day.

[Photo: Saraswati Rajagopalan. Saraswati Rajagopalan is an outstanding Veena artist from Delhi. She is an A grade artist of AIR and also on the outstanding category, empanelled with the ICCR].