Wednesday, December 30, 2020

SARASWATI VEENA-20


'KALI', the name of my first acoustic Saraswathi Veena on which I have played for many thousands of hours (from the 60s).

SARASWATI VEENA, THE ONGOING IDENTITY CRISIS-

This is an era of Electric "Veenas". My articles on hard work and rigorous practice which are applicable only to acoustic Veenas may appear strange and seem like brouhaha over nothing in a scenario where the fast and flirtatious Electric "Veenas" are made easily approachable and manageable.

Labour and penance on Veena are required only in the case of acoustic Veenas in order to bring out the true resonance of their wood properties that are responsible for producing the true tone of Veena, celebrated as "Veena Nadham".

In the absence of Veena's acoustic features the tattva (nature) of the artist neither connects itself to the Veena nor is it duly projected by the instrument. Therefore all the Electric "Veenas" (due to usage of magnetic mikes) have a uniform tone of an alien combination of guitar-gottuvadhyam-sitar.

The tone of an Electric "Veena" (passing off under the name of Saraswathi Veena), is entirely controlled and managed by the mike system (sans the acoustic features of Veena) lending an artificial razzle-dazzle comparable to the glitter of imitation jewellery (the true tone of acoustic Veena being the 24 carat gold).

These "Veenas" are also designed to facilitate any speed and comes in all shapes and sizes, including the normal size. They are not only travel friendly, these "Veenas" do not require the hard work an acoustic Veena demands. Electric "Veenas" are quite easy to handle with the mike (instead of the player) taking all the burden of glamourizing the tonal output.

While the field of music and social media are flooded by Electric "Veenas" played by all and sundry, only a handful are acoustic Veena loyalists. Out of the Electric "Veena" players only a few stand out, and that too only for their "bani" (style of school) and "vidwat" (musicianship). Therefore the responsibility of identifying a real Saraswathi Veena lands on the music lover or aspirant.




My First Guru

LATE SRI.G.ASWATHAMA
                                     During his film song recording (far right towards microphone)
During the making of Bhakta Ramadasu with actor/ producer/director Chittoor Sri.Nagaiah and orchestra members.

My first Guru- Film Music Director, LATE SRI.G.ASWATHAMA  (21/08/1927-20/05/1975).
 Student of Vizianagaram Music College (Andhra Pradesh).
Gurukulavasam for brief periods with the illustrious late Dwaram Sri. Venkataswamy Naidu and Sri.Tiger Varadachari.

Age 6 to 7 years-

"PRACTICE LIKE A DEVIL, PLAY LIKE AN ANGEL."

My father who is my first Guru - "Practice like a devil, play like an angel! You must physically and mentally strain yourself while practising, there's no option. You have to find happiness in the pain. These are healthy pains - 'Vidyaathuraanaam na sukham na nidhra....'  (in the quest of knowledge one must give up comforts and sleep..). Only when you practice so hard you'll be able to control this difficult instrument. Bring it under your control, master it!" His words used to send the adrenaline rushing through my veins.

THE PRACTICE OF KALPANASWARAMS-

I stopped playing and looked at my father hesitantly. 

He prompted, "Mmmm...keep trying."

I said meekly, "I am not getting it correctly. If you show me the thalam with your hand I will play correctly."

He smiled, "Being in your comfort zone doesn't mean practising. Stretch your imagination. Keep the correct thalam (rhythmic count and cycle of the particular thalam) within yourself, in your mind. You should not look for outside assistance. They could mislead you by showing wrong thalam. Learn to be self-reliant. Even in life, never look for assistance or ask for anything from anybody."

I was nervous. I didn't want to commit mistakes in the one-avarthanam kalpanaswaram and cut a sorry figure in front of my father. I always felt rewarded by his appreciative smile. He was never verbal in his appreciation. In rare occasions his 'very good', used to make me feel like a Queen.

My father said encouragingly in his gentle tones, "It's ok if you make mistakes, that's how you'll learn. But try not to make mistakes."

I tried to feel the rhythm within myself and started playing the one-avarthanam kalpanaswaram test. Indefatigability- that's the keyword to success. I got it after many trials. 

In time I understood that by keeping the beats within oneself the player is filled with a sense of rhythm and rhythm gradually becomes an extension of the player. Every cell in the body tunes itself to the rhythm and literally throbs with rhythm!!  The added advantage is that one is able to give undivided attention to the music and the Veena when rhythm becomes a part of oneself.

"Now increase to many rounds of avarthanams (rhythmic cycles) and play that korvai perfectly. All by yourself."


Monday, December 28, 2020

The Power Of Srimad Bhagavatham


OXFORD STREET, LONDON, 1995-

The Gorakhpur publication of Srimad Bhagavatham was quite a large and heavy book.

"It's only a 2-week trip, don't carry such a heavy book. You already have a Veena and this book is going to increase the baggage weight." My husband's advice made sense.

I started reading Srimad Bhagavatham a week ago with a determination to read it everyday. I didn't want to break the pattern at any cost even if it meant carrying the huge book with me to London.

"But how can I stop reading? I'll try to read at least one page everyday during the trip."

In the end my husband somehow managed to convince me to leave the scripture behind.

I left Chennai with a sense of guilt for not taking Srimad Bhagavatham with me.  

On one of the free days during my stay I visited the famous Oxford Street in London.

Even the grandeur of Oxford Street could not ease my depression. All the same, I was awestruck by the brightly lit richness of one of the world's busiest streets. 

The incongruity of associating Lord Krishna with foreign people, places or things never ceased to fascinate me. Looking around I felt overawed that Lord Krishna created Oxford street.., Manhattan..., the exotic Paris...., the lovely English countryside...., my favorite Beatles...., Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan..., T.M.Thyagarajan...., Voleti....., Srirangam Gopalarathnam......, Michael Jackson....., the divine Carnatic music....., the divine harmony of western music...., the exotic perfumes..., attars of the Middle East....., the divine jasmine flowers of Madurai...., the mysterious beauties of Egypt..., the bold beauty of Afganisthan....(I believe Afganisthan to be a part of Mahabharatham!!)..., it was an endless list. 

Pensive, I raised my head to look at the tall skyscrapers and found the molten gold beauty of a full moon staring at me from a clear night sky.

That day was Pournami. Moon which is exalted in Lord Krishna's star Rohini was in full form. Trying to visualize His face in the moon I removed my footwear on the crowded Oxford Street. Crinkling my eyes shut and with folded palms I felt weighed down by a sense of deep regret for not bringing the Srimad Bhagavatham book along with me to London. I prayed fervently within myself, " Oh why ever didn't I bring the Srimad Bhagavatham book along with me? Today is such an auspicious day and I have failed to read the scripture on such a day as this!! My God, please, please forgive me!!!" I was engrossed in my misery.

"Namastey Ma'm!!" A British accented male voice greeted me. Startled I opened my eyes to find an ISKCON devotee of British nationality standing in front of me. His arms were stretched out and he held a thick book in his open palms!

Shocked and in utter disbelief I saw that it was a book of Srimad Bhagavatham!! My eyes dilated in shock I quickly looked up at him.

In pale saffron robes, tulsi beads adorning his neck and wrists, the Srichurnam on his forehead shining moistly in the dazzling lights of Oxford Street and eyes twinkling with warmth he asked me cheerfully, " Hare Rame Hare Krishna!! I have this last copy of Srimad Bhagavatham, I would be very happy to give it to you!"

Finding my voice amidst my excited heartbeats at the miracle that was taking place, I answered eagerly, "Of course...of course I will take the book. Thank you....thank you so much!! Please tell me, how much to pay?"

P.S- The book given by the ISKCON devotee was one of the 10 volume set and not the volume I was reading. Whatever, it was SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM manifesting in the middle of Oxford Street and a divine miracle that happened in my life. Lord Krishna answers in Kaliyuga and He resides in SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM.


TELUGU VERSION OF SRIMAD BHAGAVATHAM,  A GEETHA PRESS PUBLICATION (GORAKHPUR)



Friday, December 18, 2020

Shreeya’s Giggles ( My granddaughter’s blog)

My guitar chords for the theme of Romeo and Juliet edited by my 12 year old granddaughter Shreeya in her blog, Shreeya'sGiggles! The link to it-    https://shreeyagiggles101.blogspot.com/2020/12/veena-gayathri-romeo-juliet-theme.html?m=1.    


                                                                

Monday, December 7, 2020

From 6 to 61- always my mother’s student!!


My mother and Guru, Smt. Kamala Aswathama tells how she was taught the Rajamathangi stotram, Omkara Panjara Sukhim directly by the great composer, Mysore Sri. Vasudevachar when she studied in Kalakshetra. I am revising the same on my mother’s Veena.   TRANSLATION OF HMY MOTHER’S  SPEECH- “ Myself, Smt. Mani Krishnaswami and Sri. D.Pasupathi learnt this Ragamalika directly from our Guru Mysore Sri. Vasudevachar. He used to ask me not to sing because according to him my pronunciation was wrong. He used to ask me to play it on Veena and would ask the vocal students to imitate the style of Veena.”                               OMKARA PANJARASUKHIM  UPANISHADH UDHYAANA KELI KALAKANTHEEM. AAGAMA VIPINA MAYUREEM AARYAAM ANTHARVIBHAAVAYE GOWREEM. (MADHYAMAVATHI). 

DAYAMAANA DEERGHA NAYANAAM DESHIKA ROOPENA DARSHITHAABHYUDAYAAM. VAAMAKYCHAVIHITHA VEENAAM VARADAAM SANGEETHA MAATHRUKAAM VANDE!   ( ANANDABHAIRAVI). SHYAAMADHANU SOWKUMAARYAAM SOUNDARYAANANDA SAMPADUNMESHAAM. THARUNIMAKARUNAA POORAAM MADAJALAKALLOLA LOCHANAAM VANDE! (KAMBODHI).
        NAKHAMUKHA MUKHARITHA VEENA NAADARASAASWAADA NAVANAVOLLAASAM. MUKHAMAMBAMODHA YADHUMAAM MUKTHAA THAATANKAMUKTHA HASITHAMTHE! (KALYANI).     

SA RI GA MA PA DA NI SA THAAM THAAM VEENASANKRAANTHA KAANTHA HASTHAAM THAAM. KAANTHAAM MRUDHULA SWAANTHAAM KUCHABHARA THAAM THAAM NAMAAMI SHIVA KAANTHAAM!
(MAYAMALAVAGOWLA).

VEENARAVAANUSHANGAM VIKACHAMADAAMODAMAADHUREEBHRUNGAM. KARUNA POORA THARANGAM KALAYE MAATHANGA KANYAKAAPAANGAM! (BHAIRAVI).

 

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Last Prayer to my God

  E.VENKATA RAMAKRISHNA 26/08/1950-10/05/2021