Contemporary concerns – R.Visweswaran

You have developed a unique style of playing the veena in the gayaka style.

Yagnavalkya says that a knowledge of veena vadana tatva—the philosophy of veena play—is one of the elements of music that can lead to salvation. I used to wonder why he did not say ‘veena vadana tantra’—the technique of veena play. It was this line that made me realise that the philosophy behind veena play is the more important factor and the choice of technique depends on this philosophy.

My philosophy of veena play is simple—my commitment is only to the raga and the composition. I consider the veena my external voice, and playing techniques mere tools at the service of the ragas and the compositions themselves.

The contours of a raga, the subtle microtonal movements of sounds (gamaka, swara, anuswara, aNuswara or atomic microtones), and special prayogas are all hallmarks of our system and have evolved over many centuries. It is no easy task to present such nuances through the veena, but the gayaka style is an attempt to represent the grace and fluidity in our music. Committed vainikas have indeed attempted to develop and standardise playing techniques over the centuries. Subbarama Dikshitar, in his Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini, has described many right-hand plucking techniques. (Unfortunately, he has not detailed the possibilities of left-hand techniques.) Even if plucking techniques are clear, we still must overcome the restriction of the frets. Can our music be described by the fret-value of swaras? What is the fret-value of the rishabha and dhaivata of Todi?… read more