Friday, November 29, 2019

Excerpts from my Acoustic Veena performance in Saket Pranaam on 19th November, 2019)

 Saket Pranaam in Hyderabad, Telangana is a gated community with all facilities for senior and super senior citizens. During my stay there, I had the pleasure and privilege of performing for the highly cultured and elite residents of Saket Pranaam.  
There is an open-air stage in between A and B blocks where frequent cultural shows by residents as well as outside artists are held.In such an informal and beautiful ambience, I gave a mixed fare in my acoustic veena performance covering semi-classical to old telugu/hindi film hits. Sri Ramana Murthy accompanied me on tabla.

YEH ZINDAGI USIKI HAIN- MUGHAL-E-AZAM (Hindi Movie- Music Direction- Late Naushad)



MROGIMPAVE HRIDAYA VEENA- ANNADAMMULU (Telugu Movie- Music Direction-My Father, late Sri. G.Aswathama)


Lyra/Moola- About Veena (3)

Lord Anjaneya Swami

Sri Sangeetha Anjaneya Swami Temple, Mandaveli, CHENNAI

Lord Anjaneya, born on Moola Nakshatra day in the month of December (Dhanur Maasam) is hailed as a great Veena player in Hanumad Sahasranamam as "Om Thumburuve Namaha". The Lord who melted stones through His music had once even melted the Veena of Sage Narada along with the rock on which the Veena was placed. 
At one time Lord Anjaneya judged a Veena competition between Sage Thumburu and Sage Narada. After the competition Lord Anjaneya rendered celestial music on a fretless Veena. The divinity of Lord Anjaneya's music was such that Lord Vishnu Himself appeared before Anjaneya and both Sages Thumburu and Narada felt humbled.
Apart from the temple above which is in Mandaveli, there is an ancient 2000 years old temple in Mappedu (Thiruvellore District, Tamil Nadu) called the Singeeswarar Temple that has Lord Anjaneya's idol playing the Veena. This is a temple for Moola Nakshatra.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Veena Fraternity!

November 19th, 2019 at Saket Pranam, Hyderabad, Telangana. Proud and happy to be with Veena vidwan and vidushis- From left- Smt.Jayalakshmi Sekhar, Smt.Krishnakumari, Smt. Kadiyala Padmavathi, myself, Smt. Kaza Subhashini Shastry, Sri. Ayyagari Syamasundaram and Smt. Ayyagari Jayalakshmi

Saturday, November 16, 2019

For Amma/Guru

                                                In Saket Pranaam, Hyderabad, Telangana

Sunday, November 10, 2019

An unforgettable birthday gift!


AMN Global Group (Chairman- Sri.R.J.Ramnarayanan) organised a surprise gift celebrating my entry into my 61st year by organising a 61 Veenas recital led by Dr. Smt.Shobana Swaminathan yesterday in Chennai. Artistes who had performed along with me in the FIDE chess championship event like Smt.N.V.S.Radha, Sashank Mallya, Ramkumar were also among the 61 artistes yesterday. Absolutely speechless, honoured and humbled!! A big thank you to AMN Group and the 61 Veena artistes!

Friday, November 8, 2019

With pride and joy!

Celebrating completion of 60 years on planet Earth since NOVEMBER 9TH, 1959
Video by Arvind, one of my brilliant students of folk department and film choroeographer today

"Ma'm, we need to participate in this mega competition  .. please..."
I looked up from the file I was signing and found the forlorn faces of folk department students standing in front of my table.
"Ya, please go.... all the best to you!"
I know that they are absolutely brilliant, one of them is Arvind. I had watched them perform in the college annual show.
"We need props ma'm, we are not allowed to take them."
Props are used by students to perform in government functions. Almost all government functions involve students/faculty of government music colleges to play nadaswaram, thavil, nattupura kalaigal (folk arts) and vocal. Madam herself expressed her wish that students should be given great encouragement and cooperation to excel in their chosen subjects. Participation in competitions and winning played a major part in enhancing confidence levels in a student.
My brows knit, "Who's not allowing?"
I was given a heated account of details by the students. Identifying the actual problem I rang the bell to summon O.A.
" Call (I mentioned the person's name in charge of the room where the props were kept). "
Within minutes the person entered my room looking well rehearsed for a 'how-to-convince-VC' session. 
I noticed that the students and the person in charge of props studiously avoided looking at each other.
I came to the point, "You know what this is about. Please give the keys".
He went into a lengthy story of keys being in the custody of X, Y, Z and so many other reasons that would make a succesful blockbuster movie.
 I said firmly, "Never mind all that. Keys please..."
He pressed further, "Actually madam...."
I looked at him long and hard...."KEYS ON MY TABLE...NOW".
Whatever he saw in my face, his monologue halted abruptly and he rushed out of the room.
Within minutes the room keys were given to me and the props were given to the students. As expected my students got the first prize that evening and they went on to win many many more prizes during my tenure!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tirupathi Laddu

FEBRUARY 23RD, 2011-

"She's not in station"- It was my husband on the phone.
"Oh!!" I was worried, "Where then... ?"
He cut me short,"Election campaigning in Pollachi. The Garden office bearers are saying she'll return only after 4 or 5 days." 
I said hurriedly, "Please ask those guys to hand it over to somebody in the kitchen and to keep the laddu and vada in the fridge. She can have it after she returns."
"They are refusing to do that, it seems somebody who's in charge of the domestic affairs is not there today and the guys in this office don't accept anything to do with personal... that is domestic matters."
"Oh God!!" I said feeling very disheartened.
"They feel  the laddu may get spoilt by the time she returns from Pollachi." He added impatiently,"Look, I am getting late for a meeting, I'll take the laddu to office..Do you want the laddu or shall I give it to .. ( he mentioned his colleague's name)?" 
It was Lord Balaji's Kalyanam laddu which I got specially for Madam. When SVBC Channel approached me for dates to perform veena for Nadaneerajanam, I opted for February 22nd, so that I could get the laddu and give it to Madam in time for her birthday which is February 24th as Lord's blessings for her victory in the forthcoming elections.
"No no I don't want it, there's enough laddu at home."
"Okay then, I'll give the prasadam to someone in my office."
"Oh, okay.." I said unhappily.
It was evening time and dinner had to be cooked. I took out the tindoras (Kovakkai in tamil, Dondakaya in telugu) from the fridge. I stood by the kitchen counter and started to cut the tindora exactly the same way my late mother-in-law showed me many many years ago. Three fourth of the tindora is cut length-wise so that the top 4 pieces open like a flower and the bottom of the tindora which is not cut acts as a base. The whole tindora is deep fried after which salt, chilly powder and asafoetida are added. I was cutting the tindoras meticulously taking care not to allow the knife to cut into the base. I heard the landline ring. I ignored the call as I had to finish cutting all the tindoras and start deep frying them in time for dinner. It's a long process. More than half of the tindoras were cut. There was only little more to go.
The phone rang for the third time within a minute. I didn't answer the call even this time. When it rang once more I couldn't ignore the ring any longer. Wondering who it could be, knife in hand I walked into the drawing room to pick up the phone. The cordless screen showed-UNKNOWN NUMBER.
Were there such numbers, how does one get such a number?!  And why is someone calling me from an unknown number?! Puzzled, I answered the phone, "Hello"
"Vanakkam, Amma wants to talk to you"- a man spoke in tamil. His voice was low as though he was telling me something very important.
I was taken aback. Why is mom calling me from an unknown number... that too having a dude connect the call?! Frowning, I quickly glanced at the telephone to see if any number appeared, but it said UNKNOWN NUMBER.
Suddenly a sense of fear gripped something wrong..?
Trying to sound calm I asked, "Where's my mother, may I know who's speaking?"
In reply he said in tamil, " I am giving Amma, please talk to her."
Absentmindedly I hurried back into the kitchen next to the counter automatically reaching out for the tindoras. I had to complete the task of slicing them.
I heard the sound of telephone receiver shifting hands. Balancing the cordless phone between my shoulder and head while reaching for a fresh tindora I waited for my mother to come on line.
"Hello", the sweet,  feminine yet loud and clear tone on the other side stunned me for 2 reasons. Firstly - the voice did not belong to my mother. Secondly- the voice was familiar in such a way that I instantly registered the aristocracy in the aura that surrounded her voice.
"Ya", for some reason I was at a loss for words." Who's this please?"
Instead of answering my question the voice said," I was informed that your husband had come to see me this morning."
With a sense of shock I realised that the Amma who I thought was mine was actually the Amma of Tamil Nadu!! "Goodness gracious me"!! I told myself, my eyes dilating in disbelief. 
"Meeraa (Is that you)??!!" I exclaimed in telugu. In my state of confusion my elbow hit the plate of tindoras causing it to topple and fall down from the counter scattering all the tindoras on the floor. I watched in horror as the plate danced round and round noisily for a long time before halting  with a thud. I was horrified thinking she could hear the pandemonium created by  the tindora plate.
"Nene (It's me)"- she replied in telugu , a hint of a smile in her calm voice. So heightened was my sense of awe of the moment that everything seemed surreal...
"Where's the laddu?" She asked in English, coming directly to the point.
My memory deserted me temporarily and I wondered hysterically, what laddu ??!!
Madam repeated,"Tirupathi Prasadam."
 Trying to find my bearings, I replied " Oh Laddu, yes, yes. They said you are in Pollachi. My husband wanted to leave it in Garden but.."
I am back in Chennai, I am in Garden.  Aa laddu naaku ippudu kaavaali.Please pampinchandi.(I want that laddu now, please send it)" she said in chaste telugu. 
I felt a wave of panic wash over me as I envisioned my husband giving away the laddu to his friend.
"Oh, Alaage (sure) Madam, I'll send immediately." I  replied with a confidence I hardly felt.
 "Very sweet of you to think of me and for doing this for my sake, thank you so much!"-She said in a clear voice.
I was overwhelmed by what she said. Before I could realise what I was saying words came out of my mouth," I love you so much, I know that you are going to win the elections."
"Naaku thelusu (I know)" she replied in telugu. 
"We will meet after the elections"- she promised with supreme confidence and disconnected. 
Dazed, I called my husband who fortunately forgot the laddu in the car itself. The laddu was promptly delivered to Madam.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Brahmaputra Pushkarini

Above video, inauguration of Brahmaputra Pushkarini this morning by Chief Minister of Assam, Sri. Sarbananda Sonowal
Brahmaputra Pushkarini, at Guwahati, Assam as Jupiter has entered Sagittarius  and constellation Lyra this morning (November 5th). Ring Nebula closely situated to Lyra and representing Lord Brahma in the above image.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Moola/Lyra- A tribute!

November1st, 2019, Friday. Today the moon is in Moola Nakshatra, Dhanush Rasi (Vega- Lyra constellation, Sagittarius). The day has got to be filled with music, when moon (mind) is in Moola and the mind is active with melodious thoughts. My usual cappuccino in a mall had me filming my musician friends and their lovely band.... my tribute to their nice music on this Lyra Day!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Moola/Lyra- About Veena (2)

Emperor and Rudra Veena exponent Ravana praying to Rudra Veena Supremo Lord Shiva at Mount Kailash

My favorite actor late Sri.N.T.Ramarao as Ravanaasura  (from the movie Seetharama Kalyanam) playing Veena literally from his nabhi ( nerves and intestines ripped out from his gut region) to appease Lord Shiva.

                          Late Dr. Sri.Emani SankaraSastrigaru's unparalleled Veena rendering Vedas, ragam and thanam in Raga Mukhari was recorded for this sequence

 Incidentally gut strings were used in the making of old guitars, especially the Spanish and classical ones. Intestines from dead lambs and bulls were taken, dried and cleaned as thoroughly as possible before stringing them onto the guitars. 

The Asura King, Ravana had Moola/Lyra constellation/Vega as his asterism. King Ravana was a great Rudra Veena exponent and knew every nuance of Veena playing. A great scholar and having mastered the Vedas,  Ravana had composed many songs and ragas in praise of Lord Shiva. The musician Emperor Ravana had also competed with Sage Agasthya in music. 
Ravana attained a state of Oneness with his Veena by dedicating his Veena playing to Lord Shiva. At one stage he literally ripped out his intestines to use them as Veena strings. It is believed that Ravana made a Veena using his ten heads as the Veena gourd, his arm as the Veena dandi and his nerves and intestines as gut strings of the Veena to play on them. As I had stated earlier, the activation of Sushumna Nadi while playing the Veena happens through retention of breath (Kumbhakam). Kumbhakam takes place when the Veena player is in Samyoga ( 'samyoga' is an act of merging of the practitioner with the music he is producing on the Veena), the act of Samyoga takes place when the practitioner performs from his 'nabhi' (gut) region where the Solar Plexus (Manipura) chakra is situated. This chakra which represents the Sun God and the Gayathri Mantra is said to be one of the most powerful chakras among the seven chakras inside the human spinal chord. Will-power, assertion, leadership, tremendous self-confidence, action and absolute power are the characteristics of solar plexus or manipura chakra. The intestines are governed by the solar plexus chakra. By using the intestines and nerves surrounding the intestines as Veena strings King Ravana had undoubtedly attained Oneness with the Consciousness of Lord Shiva.
Saint Thyagaraja in the charanam of his krithi Mokashamu Galada in Saramathi  says,  "Veena Vaadana Loludau Shiva Manovidhamerugaru..." which literally means "Liberation is difficult for people who do not understand the mind of Lord Shiva, who enjoys playing his Veena in tune with the universal resonance or naadam. Attuning oneself to the divine consciousness of Lord Shiva is "moksha" itself." 
Lord Shiva whose Nakshatra is Thiruvadirai/Ardra (Rahu's asterism) in Mithuna Rasi or Gemini  and Ravana who belonged to the Moola  (Ketu's asterism) in Dhanush Rasi or Sagittarius are in mutual aspect with each other (Sama Sapthama Bhavam).
Lord Rama, after killing Ravana went to Rameswaram. The Lord then installed a Shiva Lingam in Ramanathaswamy Temple and along with Sitadevi and Lakshmana offered prayers to the Shiva Linga to absolve the sin (Brahma Hatya Pathakam) of killing Ravana who is a brahmin and also a devotee who endeared himself to Lord Shiva through his Veena!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Memories of Mid 70s....

In the mid 70s, with  legends who made history in the field of Indian Classical Music. This snap was taken during interval of the Jugalbandhi recital of Pandit Sri.Ravishankar- Sitar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan -Sarod accompanied by Ustad Allah Rakha on the tabla  in the University Centenary Auditorium, Chennai.
In the snap from left to right- 1) Late Ustad Allah Rakha, 2) Late Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna, 3) Late Sri. Narayanan, Secretary of Balasubramaniam Sangeetha Sabha, 4) Late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, 5) Late Pandit Sri. Ravishankar, 6) Myself, 7) Late Lalgudi Sri. G.Jayaraman and 8) Sri.T.V.Gopalakrishnan.


Excerpts from my Acoustic Veena performance in Saket Pranaam on 19th November, 2019)

 Saket Pranaam in Hyderabad, Telangana is a gated community  with all facilities  for senior and super senior citizens. During my stay there...