Apart from words, music holds great power to bring the human population together. Whether it is K-pop or classical, it’s magic wraps one around like a scarf of endless comfort. An instrument not known by many yet criticised due to the unfamiliarity called ‘ Veena’ (pronounced as ve-ee-na).
The veena is one of the most ancient string instruments of India. Its origin can be traced back to the ancient yazh, a stringed instrument, similar to the Grecian harp. The veena is 1.5m long and is made from jackwood. It has a large, round body with a thick, wide neck, the end of which is carved into the head of a dragon. A small resonator is attached to the underside of the neck. It has 24 metal frets embedded in hardened bees-wax, mixed with charcoal powder. The instrument is extremely fragile and is to be handled with care. The characteristic sound of the veena is warm and full and at the same time slightly buzzing and metallic.
Emerging into the 21st century has left a higher percentage in the younger generation to not keep track of their heritage. However, the one who is always encouraging young adults to take classical music as a hobby and into a career is none other than Ms Mohana Priya, Director of Sri Ragam Fine Arts (SRFA). Building her empire right in the heart of Klang, she expanded her love for the instrument veena globally with performances in Ireland that received credibility from the Prime Minister of Ireland himself. Ms Priya has inspired hundreds of little girls who began taking classes with the introduction to the instrument and having to sit for written exams. Once the basics are concrete, the individual is then eligible to make a huge step, to receive a diploma.
On the 4th of October 2020, 9 chosen individuals received their diplomas’ at the Temple of Fine Arts, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Upon arrival at 10 in the morning, the players had a soundcheck session following by rehearsals that lasted up to 2 hours. Giving their all to blast the audio system as if it was the real performance. Lunch was served and an hour was given to rest before the arrival of the makeup artist. Placed under good hands, the players were dolled up and dressed into the traditional attire ‘saree’.
Guests began to arrive at 6.30 pm and abiding by the SOP due to Covid-19. The guests were also provided with complimentary drinks and food before entering the hall. Accommodated with dim lights and relaxing instrumental music, the stage was orderly arranged with the instrument veena. On the corner of the stage stands the altar of Goddess Sarawasti who signifies the symbol of music and specifically the instrument veena. The ceremony began at 7.30 pm with the mothers of the 9 players to ignite the oil lamp of the lords’ altar.
Before the performance, each player, accompanied by their parents, greeted their teacher with a tray filled with assortments. An important mantra (Guru Mantra) was recited to thank the teacher for her guidance. With the curtains rising, the spotlight fell on the 9 players who gave a grand opening of 4 songs. Receiving thunderous claps from the audience, the ceremony continued with 3 solo songs by 3 players for each song to prove the players’ skills on the stringed instrument. Nevertheless, the last 4 songs also received applauds from the crowd. Marking the end of the graduation, the players received their diploma certificate and had some group photo sessions.
The whole cultural exchange experience had been an eye-opener towards classical music. A few words from the players as they shared the struggles faced where it took them almost a year to graduate due to the global pandemic. Apart from that, being in sync were another hurdle which made the players play all the song for more than 100 times. The players definitely will look back onto joyful memories of laughing upon making a mistake as well as correcting them on the spot. The majority hold similar thoughts to continue their musical journey and inspire more with the power that music holds.
Written by: Nivhya
Edited by: Wu Wen Qi