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Seven veenas

Seven veenas
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First Published: Thu, Dec 16 2010. 09 43 PM IST

Exploration: Jayanthi Kumaresh experiments with the veena.
Exploration: Jayanthi Kumaresh experiments with the veena.
Updated: Thu, Dec 16 2010. 09 43 PM IST
What is the genre of music you might expect to hear in an album titled Mysterious Duality? Certainly not the veena, I’ll wager a bet. But that’s exactly what Jayanthi Kumaresh’s new album on the Earthsync catalogue is titled, and if the intriguing title doesn’t succeed in arousing your curiosity, the album description most certainly will. Each of the four tracks on the album feature compositions with multiple tracks played on the veena by the same artiste, Jayanthi Kumaresh. The album notes state that the artiste used seven different veenas for the album, making it primarily a recording project as in no other situation would it have been possible for the artiste to have played all the tracks simultaneously. While one of the tracks is labelled Traditional (India), two are composed by Abhishek Raghuram and one by violinist and composer R. Kumaresh of the acclaimed Ganesh-Kumaresh duo.
Exploration: Jayanthi Kumaresh experiments with the veena.
The sound of the veena is by far one of the most grand and majestic of all Indian instruments, and one that is often associated with temple ritual and ancient scriptures. But on the album Mysterious Duality you hear somewhat different and unfamiliar tones and textures of the veena. Lest anyone assume that I am joining the ranks of the supposedly “orthodox” who condemn any deviation from the conventional and traditional in one fell swoop, I must hasten to add that this unfamiliar use of the veena came as a very welcome surprise. I found it decidedly intriguing to hear the veena playing what sounded close to a bass line on one of the tracks, doing a pizzicato-like plucking on another, and at times, playing the same melodic lines in different octaves.
What I am wondering is whether Kumaresh intends to keep this experiment restricted to a recording project alone. And if not, how would she counter the challenges posed by the project? Would she invite other vainikas, or veena players, to join her on stage, or would she use a combination of recorded tracks over which she would play live? The launch of an album is usually followed by a series of live concerts, and it would be equally interesting to observe how Kumaresh will handle the repertoire she has recorded in a live performance situation. And being a practical sort, I’m also wondering how she is going to deal with the formidable task of travelling with so many veenas? Sadly, I was unable to speak to her in this regard, though I did try and schedule a chat a couple of times.
Earthsync albums are always tastefully designed and produced and Mysterious Duality is no exception. I’m just wondering whether it was at all necessary to insert a rather narcissistic subtitle proclaiming Just me into the album title. And if that subtitle was at all necessary, couldn’t it have been Just Veena? Perhaps, without the subtitle, the mysterious duality would have been heightened subtly.
Write to Shubha at musicmatters@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Dec 16 2010. 09 43 PM IST