Veena On 'Veena': A Musical Masterpiece

Veena Srivani's rendition of popular songs on the veena has won many hearts, including that of Shankar Mahadevan. In this interview, she talks about what motivates her and where her passions lie.

By Team ParentCircle

Veena On 'Veena': A Musical Masterpiece
“Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost soul and take strongest hold upon it” - Plato.

What insight the Greek philosopher had about the benefits of learning music! These benefits are also underlined in a study, ‘Effects of Music Training on the Child's Brain and Cognitive Development’, published in the New York Academy of Sciences in 2005 by Schlaug et al. It spells out how children benefit by studying music as it improves their verbal, mathematical and visual skills.

Plato advocates education in music as it would help our innermost soul experience harmony. Well, not just harmony within ourselves but harmony with those around us as well. That’s the magic of music. Veena maestro Veena Srivani creates this magic through the strings of the veena. This musical genius started learning the instrument at the tender age of seven and continues to create masterpieces through her music. Born in Andhra, her passion lies in pursuing music, playing the veena and learning something new every day. She is known for her renditions of popular songs on the veena. She anchored many Telugu TV shows, before leaving it all in 2013 to devote her time entirely to music. Playing the veena is just not about practising her art. For Veena, the veena is her life. On her website, she says, “I almost practise 6 to 8 hrs every day. I never lived a day without practising veena.”

Currently her aim is to bring the veena to people by playing fusion and popular music on the instrument, which is usually used exclusively for classical music. She started this initiative when she realised that many young people weren’t interested in learning the veena because of its association with classical music. This is especially when they have the option to learn instruments like the guitar or the keyboard, which are used in popular songs. She feels she can change people’s perception about the veena by playing popular songs on it. And she is right, as her veena videos have garnered thousands of views!

Below are the excerpts from our conversation with this remarkable veena exponent. This is a ParentCircle exclusive.

How did you feel when Shankar Mahadevan commented on your video?

I never expected the piece to become this viral. I got a huge response from our friends and by God's grace, I am feeling awesome. My friends told me that they were left speechless. I can't express my feelings. It even reached Shankar Mahadevan sir. He shared the video and gave his blessings. Anand Mahendra ji also gave his blessings.

Do you think playing a mix of traditional and contemporary music on the veena helps further your reach?

Definitely. The main point is to reach a huge audience. We must also change along with the times, otherwise we will be left behind. I faced some insulting and painful instances before I started this project. Once, while I was going for a recording, a small girl came to me. She asked, "What is this, Aunty?” I said, "It's a veena. Do you want to play it?” She replied, "Eww, Grannies play the veena… I will play the guitar or the keyboard.”

I immediately felt bad about how the next generation saw the veena. I shared this instance with my husband. He suggested that I should present the veena in a simple and approachable manner by playing what people are familiar with and will enjoy. Anyway, there are so many experts to play classical music on the veena, and since I am a simple veena player I should play simple music.

How did you start playing the veena?

All the credit goes to my parents, especially to my mother. She was the one who wanted me to learn how to play the veena. So, when I was in the second grade, I started learning it. My veena teacher would ask me to practise Sa Re Ga Ma three hundred times a day. I did that for three months. So, the instrument became my childhood friend.

What motivates you to keep making music?

The credit goes to the people who encourage me and my friends who motivate me daily.

How do you maintain a work–life balance?

My family is my strength. Whatever I do, they know I do it with dedication; so, they help me a lot. Even my kid cutely tries to offer coffee when I'm doing projects. By God's grace, I am managing both.

Should music be made part of the school curriculum? If so, why?

Definitely. Because music improves memory and creativity.

What advice do you have for growing musicians?

We have to cherish our traditional instruments and treat them as our assets. Learn whatever instrument you want, but also learn to play traditional instruments. A lot of people focus on just vocals. The instruments also have a lot of life in them; so learn them too.

As parents, we need to teach our children to love and cherish our cultural heritage. Indian music forms a huge part of our cultural history. People like Veena Srivani inspire us to take a step back and learn more from our traditions.

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