Follow us on
join us facebook
There is music beyond concert platforms, says
Veena E. Gayathri
For E. Gayathri, Veena is a `Rahasya Vidya’ and is equal to Sri Vidya Upasana. Veena is also a form of meditation for her. From a spiritual perspective, Veena gives sublime bliss to her. For Gayathri, this is a choice instrument. Not surprisingly, she has a totally different take, especially on music and concert. Why should your destination for music be a kutcheri? "There is music beyond the platform. I want to explore that," says Gayathri. How will you approach music if there isn’t a concert platform? It is well difficult to explain this. It needs only to be experienced, she argues.

An interactive session organized by Deccan Chronicle at Rasam Restaurant in T. Nagar here has sort of revealed the mind of this artiste, who has been an undisputed queen of Veena for well over four-and-a-half decade. She continues to be so even today.

Gayatri is passionate about discovering ragas and meeting the Devatha of the each raga. “Raga has swaroopam, a jiva swaroopa at that. I want to bring raga Devathas before me,” she says. For example, rag Kalyani has jiva swaras. "I want to practice Kalyani till the raga attains Siddhi," she explains. Her experience with this art form has been anything but thrilling for her in last 45 years. This has led to this question. If she were not a Vainika, what would she have become? For someone who pines to be a very intellectual person, she says, "If I were a man, I would have become a Vedic Pandit."

While not willing to take a cynical view of the present music scenario, she feels she had enough of concerts and fame. Having worked hard to get to where she is now, Gayathri says she is tired now. "From an early age, I was virtually living out of a suitcase, traveling from one place to another to give concerts," she says. This long musical voyage has seen her practicing even on a cargo ship for three years while traveling with her marine engineer husband. Gayathri feels she now needs time to herself to explore the art form in its fullest without bothering about stage performances. "Far from my chasing fame, fame has chosen me," says she. The concert at Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha was her first major Sabha outing. Her maiden performance was at the Vinayakar Temple in R.A. Puram. Since then, it has been a one-way journey for the child Gayatri, who has gone on to carve a special niche for herself on route to fame.

For her, playing Veena itself is a detachment towards everything. "It is like a penance. Veena playing has made me quite contended. There is no sense of insecurity while you practice Veena," she points out. Nothing is satisfying to her than a concert in a temple in front of an unalloyed audience which comes just for the joy of listening. She rates her concert at the Sankara Mutt in Kanchipuram in the presence of the Paramacharya as her best ever.

She does not hide her disappointment over the orchestrated propaganda that Veena is a dying art. Such adverse comments are `put-off’ factors for her. To understand Veena is indeed difficult. How nadam (music) comes out of it depends on the way one plays it. "Sound is very important here," she says, and goes on to insist that breath control is very important for any Veena player. In these days, the focus is more on vocal singing. "People see less Veena concerts," Gayathri points out. "I play Veena because I like it and love it," she explains. "It’s a Vedic instrument and does not owe anything to human being," she says. "You can show through Veena what it can do for the human being," she adds. For her, Vainika Smt. Kalpagam Swaminthan "is a living yogi". Gayathri has played almost everything in Veena except the Kavalis. She has even played a Lata Mangeshkar song in her own sruthi!

Like the legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi, Gayathri does not have a disciple. Did late M.S. Subbulakshmi practice music with the intention of building strong disciples to carry forward her music? So saying, Gayathri points out that "art forms are something abstract and eternal". What would be her advice to the students of music? First of all, they should have interest. "It (interest) will be the best motivating factor," feels Gayathri. There should be no parental pressure, she goes on to caution. More than the talent, the interest in this art form is very essential, she observes. "Television reality shows are short cut routes to fame. It may curb the growth of the children," she avers. She wants children to go to lot of concerts and listen to classical music. "Classical music is an ocean. Even today, I am a student”, says Gayathri.

Veena, according to her, can help one to discover oneself. It can bring contentment in life. "A true Vainika can become an emperor and Veena will help him to conquer everything," says Gayathri. “Music gives bliss, which is far above the sensory pleasure”. In other words, music should elevate one without touching the sensory organs. Music should not be taken as an entertainment by the children. They should understand the spirituality of it. "Look at music as karma, as a tool for meditation and a means to satisfaction, contention and peace of mind in life," she tells youngsters. "If music is practiced with such an approach, it will bestow on you whatever be your craving and grant whatever be your wishes," she adds.

Who are her favorite artistes? She reels out names such as Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, KVN, R.K. Srikantan, Rudrapatnam Brothers and others. MS and Bismillah Khan are her role models when it comes to simplicity. She wants to be like Bismillah Khan, who has spent his last days at Varanasi doing all his cooking, washing and cleaning.

Gayathri always wants to walk around and live like an ordinary person. Her star status is not allowing her the time and space to do that. "I am just waiting for my season concert to get over, so that I can go on holiday with my children," she blurts out. As much she loves Veena, she loves cooking, reading and holidaying with her two engineer- daughters. Her reading interest spans across the canvass. She is keen student of philosophy and astro-numerology and does research on Veena. She blogs her findings in `Jasmine Strings."

Interviews Archive