Pre-Vedic texts from 2000 BCE have referenced the saraswati veena as 8000 years old. It is solid, about 5 feet long and notoriously bulky weighing about 8 to 9 kilograms. Its recorded history of exponents comprises a long list and is a strongly male-dominated one.
But Kumaresh has expelled many notions about this domain and established beyond doubt that she is a front-runner. In this Director’s Cut concert, our Artistic Director Sandeep Virdee puts the spotlight on both the instrument and its exponent.
“It is essential that major music festivals give prominence to the veena and not just the popular instruments like the flute or the sitar. Also, there are very few women instrumentalists like Kumaresh who can be considered a maestro in their field,” says Virdee.
Kumaresh’s veena is gently electrified and produces an uncompromised tone best suited for large concert halls that require amplification. Her approach to a raga is sublime, adhering to gayaki (vocal music style), is tradition-bound and yet pregnant with the spry of a contemporary artist.
Kumaresh is also well-grounded with sound knowledge alongside skills. She holds a doctoral degree in the ‘Styles and Playing Techniques of the Saraswati Veena’ and is one of the busiest performers around. She plays long phrases on her veena, churning out all seven notes with a single pluck of one string, sustaining notes with fluidity and assurance.
She begins her performance with a kriti by Saint Thyagaraja, ‘Siva Siva Siva’ in Adi talam set to Raag Kamavardhini. Her next presentation is in Raag Ananda Bhairavi, ‘Mari Bere,’ a composition by Shyama Shastri in Mishra Chapu talam.
Next, she plays ‘Ramachandram Bhavayami’ in Raag Basanta. It is a composition of Muthuswamy Dikshitar set to Rupak talam. The hallmark of her presentation, the ragam tanam pallavi, is in Raag Shanmukhapriya in Triputa Tala.
A sprightly composition in Behag – Kavadi Chindu, follows as her concluding piece. It was composed by her violinist husband Kumaresh and his brother Ganesh Rajagopalan.
Kumaresh has been provided an uninhibited and crisp accompaniment by Patri Satish Kumar on the mridangam and UK-based RN Prakash on the ghatam. Their impassioned rhythmic dialogues and interplay resulted in joyous moments of exchange blending with the textures and tones of the veena.
Jayanthi Kumaresh (Saraswati veena)
Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam)
RN Prakash (ghatam)
Mithila Sarma (tanpura)
Raag Kamavardhini, Kriti in Adi talam composed by Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847)
Raag Ananda Bhairavi, Kriti in Mishra Chapu talam composed by Shyama Shastri (1762-1827)
Raag Basanta, Kriti set to Rupak talam, Saint Thyagaraja (1767-1847)
Raag Shanmukhapriya, Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Triputa Tala
Raag Behag, Kavadi Chindu, composed by Ganesh and Kumaresh Rajagopalan