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Failing to strike the right cord here

Swahilya

The veena is gradually losing popularity in the city due to several reasons



FADING ART: A file photo of the mass veena recital during the Navaratri festival at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple in Madurai this year.

CHENNAI: It is the national instrument of India and has a number of famous patrons including President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The veena is more popular at concerts in Europe, United States, Singapore and Malaysia, but not in Chennai.

Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, who has been teaching veena since 1951 in Chennai, Malaysia, Singapore, London, United States, Paris, Switzerland and Japan, says people abroad flock to Veena concerts as they are attracted by its novelty and melody. "They listen intently and do not walk away in between a concert."

However, she sees a change in the trend with an increase in the number of students from five to 35. To promote the instrument, she sponsors a veena concert from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., before the main vocal concert as part of the Anna Nagar Music Circle every month.

In the absence of star performers such as Veena Balachander, Chittibabu and Emani Sankar Sastri, fewer people attend such concerts.

Jayanthi Kumaresh has completed her Ph.D. thesis on Analytical Techniques of Different Playing Techniques of the Saraswati Veena from the Mysore University. She says the demand for learning the veena is phenomenal in Bangalore.

"Though the veena is called a Deiva Vadyam, it requires Asura Sadhakam," she says.

Compatible for playing of Michael Jackson songs to ghazals, the aura of divinity and spirituality takes the instrument far from the youth and limits its scope, she says.

B. Kannan, a veena artist and founder-president of the Youth Association For Classical Music, says it calls for a six-pronged strategy involving the artiste, Sabhas, media, parents, children and the rasikas.

"It is an uphill task for the time being, but we have to make the concert interesting," he says.

K.N. Shashikiran, Director, Carnatica, says last year, out of 2,800 concerts in the season, the share of veena concerts was only two to three per cent — around 75 to 100. The Veena Foundation from New Delhi, which had organised a special programme last year, plans to repeat it this season too, he says, calling for a need to cultivate rasikas.

"With less interest shown by people, practitioners have also reduced," he says.

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