|OTHERS||T. R. BALAKRISHNAN, M.E., M.I.E., PGD QC & OR, Chartered Engineer, is a small industrialist. He had secured the diploma ‘Veenai Isai Mani’ from the Tamil Isai Sangam, Chennai. His mother Smt. Lakshmy Amma, disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, is his first guru. He took tuition under Tanjavur Smt. Seeta Lakshmy Ammal and advanced studies under Sangeetha Kalanidhi Sri. K. P. Sivanandam (and Smt. Sarada Sivanandam)||YAGYAVALKIAR
SAYS : PLAYING VEENA
WILL LEAD TO MOKSHAM
by T R Balakrishnan
The golden period of Carnatic Music is the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the Divine Trinity, Maharaja Swathitirunal, Gopalakrishna Bharati, the Tanjore Quartet (I am proud to pronounce myself belonging to their sishya parampara) and other beckoning the light of classical music. They have contributed to elevate the Carnatic Music system as the best system in the World.
During this Century we see another renaissance where CHITRAVEENAI (thanks to Sri. Ravikiran) is given a new dimension and has become popular, and Western instruments like Mandolin (thanks to Sri. U. Srinivas) and Guitar (thanks to Sri. Prasanna) are successfully merging with our systems and traditions and getting wide acceptance.
Nobody in the Carnatic Music field would disagree with the fact that Veenai is the most suitable musical instrument for Carnatic music. But it is invariably seen that Veenai is not only getting neglected in concert platforms but also by the younger generations of music students. One of the reasons for this that the size of the Veenai is large, making it unwieldy to carry. It occupies large floor space in the present-day tailored rooms of flats. Again, those who take Veenai abroad encounter many problems (like higher freight rates) compared to Mandolin or Guitar. But, then, Veenai is our traditional instrument for centuries (nobody knows the origin). Hence we cannot just ignore this and we have a moral obligation to check it.
I (a humble Vainika for more that four decades) am equally worried over this trend of Veenai losing its true and deserved honour. This led to the invention of BALA VEENA, the fruit of my active research for more than a decade. This small, compact, portable midget Bala Veenai was born two years ago. For that, let me thank the Almighty, the musical Trinity, my mother and Gurus here.
The first prototype was made two years ago in jackwood with 24 inches speaking length within an overall length of 29 inches and with 16 frets. It is not a true sizing down of the conventional Veenai. But, I have incorporated a reduced bowl height, increased tapering of dhandi at the bowl joint etc. It is admitted that the last string is conventional Veenai, (hereafter we will call it Veenai and my make as Bala Veenai) is not used much and not at all by some Vainikas. There is no composition for its use. In other words, of the 3 ½ sthayees of Veenai, the bottom-most ½ sthayee is not used. So I have eliminated this uttarangam of Anumandara sthayee in Bala Veenai. Accordingly, Bala Veenai can be played only on 3 sthayees, namely Mandaram, Anumandaram and Tara sthayees. It is as if the last string of Veenai is removed and other strings are respectively set at 2, 3 &4 positions and one string set in No. 1 position at madhyama panchamam sruti. So, the tuning from the first string as Pa, Sa, Pa, Sa is what is set in Bala Veenai. This setting is not done in any of the older Veenas.
RAMADHIER (1540 A. D.) in his Swara Mela Kalanidhi has described the tuning of certain other Veenas as under from the last string.
Veenai Sa Pa Sa Ma
Veenai (conventional present) Pa Sa Pa Sa
Veenai Sa Pa Sa Pa
Bala Veenai Sa Pa Sa Pa
It is to be noted that Bala Veenai tuning is not done as in any other Veenai.
In Bala Veenai the madhya sthayee poorvangam is played in the second string (Saranai of Bala Veenai) and the uttarangam in the first string. There are three advantages in Bala Veenai compared to others.
The same space (Viralidam) is available for Ri & Dha, Ga & Ni, Ma & Sa in Madhya sthayee and Mandara sthayee, unlike other Veenas.
For Ri & Dha, Ga & Ni or Ma & Sa (upper) the distance between plucking and fretting is the same and this gives better sound characteristics, whereas in other veenas the distance goes on reducing from Ri to Ni. The redundancy in playing the same swara of particular sthayee in different frets in different string is reduced as Bala Veenai has only 1 ½ octaves compared to 2 octaves of the other veenas. The above led to the reduced size of Bala Veenai while giving almost the same span of frets. All the 23 gamakas (why not more?) as said in the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarsini can be played in Bala Veenai.
During last year with the help of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai under the able guidance of Dr. Gopalakrishnan (the HOD of the Department of Composites), Fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) research scholars have invented a new FRP combination which excels the qualities and characteristics vis-à-vis Veenai jackwood. A permanent Diemould is made and something like a Ekanda Shell was made. This is unbreakable, not subjected to climatic variations; light but strong and also with good polished finish. In fact FRP Bala Veenai can be made in any pleasing colour say that like Maruti, Ford, Opel etc. In the course of these research project I noticed that some of the commercially sold Veenas are made of Kodukkapuli wood and not in jack-wood for cheapness.
Bala Veenai is light in weight (say 2.75 kg) and can be put in a canvas shoulderbag. It can be put underneath train seat or inside the overhead bin in an aircraft. It can even be taken in a bus
Bala Veenai can be played in any style, say Tanjore, Mysore, Trivandrum, Vijayanagaram, Ramphor or Lucknow Styles, Classically or lightly in playing raga-s like Nayaki, Devagandhari, Yadukula kamboji, Asavari with the same ease as with Veenai. I have developed a style to suit the Vadya dharma of Bala Veenai enriching its gamakasuddham and sukhabhavam. Of course we have eminent Vainika-s to still improve it, mirroring nadaswaroopam.
IIT Chennai, Anna University (Chennai) and I have jointly presented a Bala Veenai to Bharata Ratna Sri. A. K. J. Abdul Kalam (Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India) who plays Veenai.
The entire Bala Veenai Project is self financed. I have not approached any forum or Institution for funding.
I have derived the correct span of Frets in inches and anybody can scientifically set the frets with precision measuring tools. I hereunder furnish the detail in a table.
Suddarishanam 1.346 Panchamam 0.946 Chathursruti Rishabam 1.260 Suddadhaivatham 0.898 Sadharana Gandharam 1.185 Chatursruti Dhaivatham 0.840 Antara Gandharam 1.136 Kaisikanishadham 0.798 Suddha Madhyamam 1.664 Kakali Nishadam 0.795 Prati Madhyamam 1.606 Sadjam (Upper) 0.709
Different varieties of Veenai were made since Vedic age. Sangeetha Maharantham, Sageetha Sudhakaram, Ratya Sarithiram, Silappathikaram and other books give the name of Veena-s made available and used in the past. Models of some of them are at Sangeetha Vadyalaya and Tamil Isai Sangam, Chennai. Some of the sculptures in temples at Chidambaram, Suchindram, Tanjore and other places gives an idea of some of the Veena-s. some others are not available. The name of these Veena-s are,
But it is to be noted that Bala Veenai is entirely different from all the identified Veenas in size, shape, tuning, sthayees, playing postures, no. of frets, speaking length and other things. Though no statistics is available in the amount of wood used and number of trees cut partially (it should be enormous) the present day environment protection is against felling of trees. As such, fiberglass Bala Veenai is most welcome for the environmentalist and to the Nation.
Further information on BalaVeenai can be had from TR Balakrishnan,A 5,Anands,10 (5), 4 th Trustcross Street,Mandevelipakkam,Chennai 600028, Tel: Res 91-(0)-44-4612895
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