On the 2nd of January I went to see a Veena performance at the Raghavendra Swami mutt. Veena is the national instrument of India, along with representing music it signifies culture, knowledge, and heritage. The veena is played by Hindu goddess of wisdom and arts and can be traced back 1000 BCE.
Despite the Veena traditionally being a soft and subtle instrument, the performer played it with a modern and louder style. As a veena student I was shocked and amazed to see how once mastering the instrument you can easily move in between different styles by using various techniques and gamakas.
There are many styles and ways to play the Veena. The main style in Carnatic Veena is Gayaki which is soft and graceful. The notes flow from one to another like ripples in a stream. In this style all the swarms (notes) are not plucked, and many are played in others using gamaka.
There are many types of Gamaka but its purpose is to add effect to notes and make them sound more pleasant. Higher notes can be played in lowers and with the right skill and pull of the strings they still sound like the original note but filled with flavour.
The artist did not entirely play in the gayaki style as it was less fluent and soft. He used many techniques such as playing quick flat notes (lack of gamaka) or split fingering which disrupts the flow of the swarams but helps emphasise certain notes. The veena is also strummed in between sahitya for added effect.
My favourite krithi (song) was Sudhamayi in Amrutavarshini set to Roopaka tala and composed by Muthiah Bhagavatar. Personally, I enjoyed this krithi since it wasn’t too complex but was very pleasant and because I have been taught this. I loved seeing how one song could be played in different ways and yet sound good. I also loved the popular krithi Samaja Varagamana set in raga Hindolam, adi tala and composed by Shri Tyagarajaa. The krithi was beautiful and having heard my sister play it so many times it filled me with warmth.
I think in future there could have been carpets or matts on the floor for comfort. However it is fantastic to see that the organisation is providing great opportunities and talent despite the small budget and venue. The Mutt is a religious (Hindu) charity and run by volunteers. Many performances are organised to celebrate events and festivals. It is free for public to attend. The Mutt is located in slough, Berkshire and yearly holds many Carnatic music events as well as being open 5 days a week for public to visit and pay respect to Sri Raghavendra Swami.