Unique and first of its kind Veena Festival and Conference in Chicago

April 28, 2010

Chicago saluted, and celebrated the Veena, the enigmatic stringed music instrument of India from the East at the 2010 Veena Festival and Conference, on Saturday April 24, 2010. It was held under the auspicious of SAPNA (Sri Annamacharya Project of North America), a not for profit organization established in US to promote classical performing arts, in collaboration with India Classical Music Society, ICMS.

Nirmala Rajasekar
Rama Gurupalli

The Veena is the most ancient and is one of the three principal musical instruments mentioned in Vedas. It is India’s national instrument. Archaeological digs have uncovered gold coins from Gupta regime, inscribed with Emperor Samudra Gupta (330 - 375 AD) playing harp, a form of Veena. From maestros opening gentle pluck of the string, from every note that breaks into the atmosphere, the Veena commands the listener’s attention. As raga builds up, the flow of music on the frets of the Veena seems to cascade over human senses. To the lay listener, it would be difficult to distinguish the subtle differences between sampradayas. But the discerning ear can identify and become one with it. Strong introduction and exploration into all these sampradayas will enable the student of performing arts to present his or her fullest potential. With this objective in mind, SAPNA conducted the First Veena Festival and Conference in 2009, first of its kind in USA, and inspired by its great success, the second conference was conducted with thematic presentations.
Students of Rama

Wondrous and rich tradition of Carnatic music was experienced by one and all. It certainly was spiritually uplifting, for all those who attended and visualized over seventy Veenas dressing the floors of Pancavati Auditorium at Sri Venkateswaraswami (Balaji) temple of Aurora, IL. It was a mesmerizing experience and exhilarating to listen to various vibrant ragas unfolding on Veenas bringing forth various Veena sampradayas of India onto a global platform. It was heart warming to see the next generation students’ commitment in enduring rehearsals, lengthy periods of practice to render the thematic presentations. With an amazing inherent feel and understanding, the featured artists of the day Saraswathi Ranganathan, Nirmala Rajasekar, Rama Gurupalli, Rajeswari Pariti, Jai Shree Prasad, Vasanthi Iyer exhibited their artistry.

The three schools of Veena playing ‘Tanjavur sampradayam’ which aims to reproduce the vocal style as closely as possible, ‘Mysore sampradayam’ which brings the deep, profound ‘gamaka’ and ‘Andhra sampradayam’ with varieties of ‘meetus,’ high speed passages, were brought to light by the artists.

Panel Discussion led by Dr.s Shelly Kumar & Sarada Purna Sonty
Participants: Nirmala Rajasekar, Rajeswari Pariti, Rama Gurupalli, Saraswathi Ranganathan, Ravi Pariti & Vinod Menon

The uniqueness of this conference lies in the presentations of variations of a compositional form called Varnam played in combination of mellifluous melodies along with rhythmic cycles, ranging from simple to complex, gentle to exuberant. The festival had a wide variety of features, which included recitals of internationally renowned artists, and emerging students, lecture demonstrations, and panel discussion. The highlight of the day is in presenting students in joint presentation with senior artists, in which one can witness an array of tens of Veenas adorning the stage and expanding the art of Veena playing. Modern technology has enabled the soft sound of Veena to pass the geographical climatic conditions and emerge from chamber music to auditorium music. With the help of contact microphones, magnetic pick ups, it is now possible to hear the softest whispers on the Veena.

SAPNA, ICMS, artists and students together paid homage to this truly divine music instrument. The audience present was absolutely enthralled and is looking forward to the third 2011 Veena Festival and Conference with a new innovative theme and exciting presentation.