Wednesday, August 26, 2009

VEENA - An Introduction

The veena is one of the most beautiful instruments in Hindustani as well as Carnatic music. It is possibly the oldest instrument and finds mention in the ancient texts.
Many kinds of veenas exist like the Vichitra Veena, Mahaveena, Sarasvati Veena, and Rudra Veena or been. They mainly differ in their size and number of strings. Because of its antiquity, it is used in the music of both the north and the south. In South India, the Sarasvati Veena is popular, while in the north, the Rudra Veena is used more often.

Veena Structure
Veena is made of jackwood or blackwood about 3 feet long.

Khunti -Tuning pegs
Patari, Fret Board - Patari or fret board is a bamboo board about 2 feet long on the stem of the veena. It supports the 24 metal frets of the veena.
Perda - Metal frets - The veena has 24 frets called perda made of steel, wood, or branze. These frets are fixed, not movable.
Tar - Strings - The veena has four metal tars or playing strings tuned to the notes Ma (Madhyam), Sa (Shadaja), Pa (Panchama), and Re (Rishaba). These strings are made of copper, brass, steel or bronze. They are attached to four wooden tuning pegs on one side and pass the gori, a wide bridge covered with a steel plate. Besides the four metal strings, three thin strings called sarani are also present. They pass over a subsidiary bridge and are suspended on the sides. They provide the drone.
Tumbar - Gourd - The veena has two symmetrical gourds called tumbar, about 1 foot in diameter. These gourds are quite elaborately decorated.
Gori - Bridge
Veena Performance
The index and the middle finger of the right hand are used for plucking the melody strings, while the little finger plucks the drone strings. A wire plectrum is generally used for plucking the strings though some players also use their fingernails. The left arm encircles the stem, so that the fingers rest easily upon the frets.
The veena is perfect for chamber music as it produces an echoing sound. It permits a continuous change of frequency from one note to another, as on the sitar, but it is much smoother on the veena. All the musical styles, and techniques like meend and gamaka, are brought out distinctly by the veena. The veena is played as a solo instrument accompanied by the mridangam and sometimes the flute. It is also a popular accompanying instrument in both Hindustani music like dhrupad and Carnatic music like kriti. Many recent instruments like the sitar and tanpura owe their origin to the veena.

Maestros of veena
Pithapuram Sangameswara Sastri, Seshanna, Subbanna, Venkataramana Das, Dhanammal, the Karoekudi brothers, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, Yamini Shankar Shastry, Balachander, S.Balachander, K.N. Narayanaswami, D.N. Iyengar, Chitti Babu, Mokkapati Nageswara Rao, and Narayana Menon are some of the exponents of this instrument. Among the prominent beenkars are Wazir Khan of Rampur who gave recognition to the been as a concert instrument in the early 20th century. Today, Dabri Khan, Zia Mohinuddin Dagar, Asad Ali Khan, Ahmed Raza, and Gopal Krishna are prominent been players.

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