Mastering the art of playing the veena :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Bengaluru-based veena exponent Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh engages in a conversation with us while preparing for her solo and collaborative performances in Chennai for the December music season

Even before she could pronounce normal words, she was taught to sing the sargams or solpha syllables and the awareness of shruti and ragam identification.

Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh began playing the veena at the age of three. “Having a lineage of six generations of musicians preceding me in my family, music is a way of life in our house. Even before we started speaking properly, we were humming melodies. Music became the natural calling, be it as my profession or passion,” says the veena exponent.

The Indian veena has always been considered an instrument of the gods and hence the name ‘divine instrument’ has been attributed to it. From the earliest times, it has been a guiding star for the development of Indian music in general. So was it a conscious decision to pick veena as her instrument of choice? “My maternal aunt and my guru, Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, was the only veena player in my family prior to me which is replete with violinists. It was my mother Lalgudi Rajalakshmi who initiated me into veena at the age of three.

My aunt has always been my idol. I was too young to make a conscious decision to choose an instrument. It would be more appropriate to say that the veena chose me,” she says and thanks her mentor veena wizard Dr. S Balachander for introducing her to the fact that the veena is so versatile. “He made me realise that if something cannot be played on the veena, it’s only the limitation of the player and not the instrument,” she says. Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh also fondly recollects her memories of late violin virtuoso Lalgudi G Jayaraman, her maternal uncle. “He showed me the aesthetics of music and how pure music can communicate without lyrics to strike a chord with the listener,” she says.

Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh has given numerous solo performances and collaborated with some top musicians including Ustad Zakir Hussain, R Kumaresh, Ronu Majumdar, Bombay Jayashree, Sudha Raghunathan, Kala Ramnath, Rakesh Chaurasia and the like. Sharing her experiences of performing onstage, she says, “In a solo recital, an artiste has complete freedom, space and time to express what he or she wants to establish as a musical journey. Especially in a veena recital, where even a violin accompaniment is not present, the solo melodic instrument performs the role of the principal speaker conveying myriads of emotions, flavours and creative ideas. In a collaborative project, when there is an amalgamation of different creative minds, many exciting doors open and multiple thought processes are laid out on the table. That makes it a unique learning experience and more challenging. It is important to get all perspectives while creating something beautiful in collaborative projects.”

She shares come insights on her performance in the upcoming December music season. “The concerts will be planned with the tapestry of well known ragas and some rare ragas. It will be designed to satisfy the connoisseur, kindle the interest in the student, and the rasikas who look forward to timeless tunes. It is a very fertile ground to try new collaborations and ideas,” she says.

Playing the veena requires tremendous skill and finesse. “Quite a few youngsters are taking to playing veena. But I would be happier if there were more performers of the veena in the next generation. The leap from average playing to excellence is a huge one. It is quite easy to reach the average level. It takes hours and hours of practice, patience and perseverance to perfect the technique which enables you to establish seamless communication between the artistic mind and the audience,” she finishes.

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