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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Saraswati Veena : Lesson 2

The veena is a plucking string instrument. It has two tumbas -- resonating chambers. The large tumba, which figures on the right hand side of the player, is made of hollowed jackwood. The upper and smaller one is made of papier mache. Both the chambers are connected by a fret board with 24 metallic frets on it.

The fret board is also called the dandi or the neck of the veena. These 24 metallic frets correspond to each semi-tone of two octaves. The veena has four playing strings. The three-side strings are the chikari strings, which indicate rhythmic movements and also give the basic tonic, which is sa. The instrument is played with a wired plectrum, which is fitted over one or two fingers. It is the equivalent of the mizrab in sitar.

The player holds the veena from below; the left hand covers the frets while the right hand rests on the big tumba and gives the rhythm. The main strings are plucked downwards with the help of the pointer and the middle finger on which the plucker or the mizrab is worn. The co-ordination of the movement of the right hand with the left hand is very important and demands a lot of practice.

The plucking can also be done with fingernails if not with the mizrab. The little finger of the right hand is plucked in the reverse direction to maintain the drone of the rhythm, which is the chikari. Sometimes the veena is ornamented elaborately with ivory and other kinds of carvings.

Related Instruments : Rabab ; Rudraveena ; Vichitraveena ; Chitraveena

Exponents : One of the foremost musicians of India, S. Balachander is the recipient of innumerable titles and honours. This veena vidwan is an international celebrity and is known for his pioneering work in popularising Carnatic classical music. Born in Chennai in 1927, this child prodigy first performed at the age of six. He has dedicated himself completely and solely to the veena. He is an entirely self-taught musician and is an excellent vocalist, too.

A distinguished veena player, Chittibabu was initiated into music by his father who sent him to Chennai to be trained by the great maestro Emani Shankara Shastri. Chittibabu imbibed his guru's technique well and used his own imagination and expertise to evolve his own style of playing. His sound technique is matchless and highly evolved. He is capable of producing long, unbroken melodic phrases. His playing is very graceful and melodious. Upcoming and young Saraswati veena players Gayatri Narayanan, a disciple of S. Balachander has cut many records and cassettes. Another great musician in the making is Narayan Mani.

Veena : Lesson 1 Lesson 2

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