Vibrant ‘Veena Utsava’ held in memory of Veene Seshanna & Vidu. Chokkamma
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Vibrant ‘Veena Utsava’ held in memory of Veene Seshanna & Vidu. Chokkamma

January 8, 2024

Ganabharathi had arranged a grand Veena Utsava in memory of Vainika Shikhamani Veene Seshanna and Veena Vidushi Chokkamma on the 17th of December, 2023 at Veene Seshanna Bhavana in Kuvempunagar, Mysuru.

The festival exclusively highlighted the legacy of Mysuru Vainikas, who were also very good composers. The one-day programme included three lecture-demonstrations along with veena performances.

Vidu. Geetha Ramanand on the ‘Mysurina Vainika Vaggeyakararu’, Dr. M.R. Manjula on ‘Some rarely heard compositions of Mysuru Veena Vaggeyakaras and our duty as vainikas to revive them’ and Vidu. Y.G. Srilatha on ‘Different baanis of Veena’  were the three lecture-demonstrations and Vidu. Mysuru Rajalakshmi with Dr. M.G. Veena and Anagha played some rare compositions of a few vainikas of Mysuru and Vidushis Bharathi and Srilakshmi presented compositions of Veene Seshanna.

The evening Veena Duet was by Vidu. M.K. Saraswathi and Aishwarya Manikarnika accompanied by G.S. Ramanujam on mridanga and V.S. Ramesh on ghata respectively.

Mridangist Kumaraswamy and Manoj lighting the lamp during the inauguration of ‘Veena Utsava’ at Veene Seshanna Bhavana in Kuvempunagar recently as others look on.

Morning session began with a lec-dem by Veena Vidushi Geetha Ramanand, supported by her student Manoj and accompanied by Kumaraswamy on mridanga.

In her introduction, she spoke of the Veena tradition and the Vainika Vaggeyakaras of Mysuru. Her demonstration began with a Varna by Veena Venkatagiriyappa in a rare raga Vedandagamana. ‘Paripalisou Parameshwari’ in Shankarapriya or Shankaranandapriya was quite attractive. Veena Shivaramayya has composed a raga called ‘swayambhoo’ which has only three notes — sa ga and pa. He has composed four compositions to establish its usage. “Bhaje bhaje Parvathi Ramana’ was played by her and Manoj. Swaramurthy V.N. Rao’s Keerthana in Dharmavathi ‘Ninna nambideno’ was followed by a composition in Revathi by R.N. Doreswamy.

She pointed out that the Hindusthani musicians, who came to Mysore Palace to perform, influenced our musicians and paved way to ‘Dhun.’ Veene Seshanna has composed a few dhuns. Geetha Ramanand concluded with a Thillana of Seshanna in Hindusthani Kapi.

Vidushi Mysuru Rajalakshmi along with Dr. Veena and Anagha presented a few unheard compositions of Mysuru Veena Vaggeyakaras. Two swarajathis by Veena Shivaramayya and Veena Padmanabhayya in Kalyani and Aarabhi raga, a Varna in Varali by R.N. Doreswamy, Veena Padmanabhayya’s ‘Agha rahitham Bhajare’ in the raga Satyavathi and a Kannada composition of RND ‘Kailasapathe gowripathe’ in Saranga, a Sanskrit composition of Veena Padmanabhayya in Sarasangi and Sriranjini and a Thillana by RND in Bageshree were played neatly by the trio.

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Dr. M.R. Manjula from Bengaluru spoke passionately about the need to preserve the treasure of compositions by Vainikas which are simple, interesting and are numerous. She demonstrated by playing many unheard compositions of different composers. She called upon the teachers to teach them to their disciples  instead of  teaching the same old compositions.

A Thillana by Seshanna in Shankarabharana, a Kamodhi swarajathi by Veena Subbanna, a Todi Jathiswara by Padmanabhayya and a Mohana swarajathi by Shivaramayya were indeed very pleasant to hear. She also played two compositions of Venkatagiriyappa, two Nagmas in Behag and Keeravani. RND’s Jathiswara, Nagmas and a Pallavi that was specially composed in praise of Ganabharathi in Hamsavinodini were presented highlighting the sahitya. Deeptha Manjunath, her disciple sang the compositions. Manjula rounded of with a Thillana by Dr. Doreswamy Iyengar.

Vidushi Y.G. Srilatha spoke on the different Baanis in Veena playing. She explained how baanis started depending on the elements and structure of Veena. Mysuru, Kerala, Andhra and Karaikudi baani in Tanjore were taken up to justify. Plucking, left hand techniques, Gayaki style and Tantrakari style in every baani were highlighted.

She used the video and audio recordings of many artistes like Dhanammal, Emani Shankara Shastry, Ananthgopalan, Chitti Babu, R.K. Suryanarayana etc.

Vidushi Bharathi and Vidushi Srilakshmi are both disciples of Vidushi M.K. Saraswathi. They have a good repertoire of Seshanna’s compositions. They presented them with enthusiasm and vigor. Vidwan Nataraj accompanied on mridanga for them.

The evening concert was a Veena Duet by the senior most veena player M.K. Saraswathi and young Aishwarya Manikarnike. While Saraswathi is  a veteran player, Aishwarya Manikarnike is a budding artiste. But she carried the responsibility of balancing the concert with her wonderful manodharma and lively playing.

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The whole concert, from the opening swarajathi to Thillana included Veena Seshanna’s compositions only. It was indeed a befitting tribute to the great vainika. In fact almost all the artistes who performed since morning belonged to the Shishya Parampara of  Veene Seshanna.

After a brisk Swarajathi in Jinjhoti, a varna in a rare raga Jhalavarali was chosen from the duo.  A short alapana of Anandabhairavi lead to a kruthi, ‘Rama ninnu’. The Keerthana had a frill of Kalpana swaras. Seshanna’s compositions, especially keerthanas  express humility, sorrow and praise. He has composed in many rare ragas like Gowri, Gamanashrama, Rishabhapriya to mention a few. His combination of Datu swaras and highly Imaginative sangathis are of very high order. His Thillanas  are more popular than the Keerthanas.

A Kannada composition ‘Kaapaadabeku thaye’ in the raga Khamach was very soothing. The alapana had the stamp of Mysuru. Vachaspathy, the main raga of the day had all the graceful gamakas and melodious sancharas from both the artistes. Taana in different ragas made it more decorative. ‘Emani delupudura’ was majestic with significant swara Kalpana filled with Raga bhava. The Tani avartana was very attractive and supportive all through the concert.

G.S. Ramanujam on mridanga and V.S. Ramesh on ghata share a perfect rapport which results in a smooth and substantiate percussion support. ‘Narayana ninna’ and a Hindusthani Kapi Thillana brought the curtain down for a day long Veena Utsava.

— Dr. Rama V. Bennur

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