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Melodies with several strings attached

The rudra veena is difficult to master and there are only a handful of musicians who play it. Panvel-based Bahauddin Dagar, 42, the son and pupil of the veteran rudra veena player the late Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, is foremost among them. Amarendra Dhaneshwar writes.

music Updated: Oct 13, 2012 01:34 IST

The rudra veena is difficult to master and there are only a handful of musicians who play it. Panvel-based Bahauddin Dagar, 42, the son and pupil of the veteran rudra veena player the late Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, is foremost among them. The mantle of the rich dhrupad instrumental tradition now rests on Bahauddin's shoulders.

To listen to him playing an extensive aalaap, the initial exposition of a raga without rhythmic accompaniment, which sets the mood, is to become completely submerged in the ocean of sound.

Bahauddin plays often at major European festivals, and in India, he enjoys a unique standing as the only exponent of the rudra veena. Tomorrow morning, he will play at the Karnataka Sangha in Mahim in memory of actor Padmini Kolhapure's grandfather Krishnarao Kolhapure, who was a prominent veena player from Maharasthra. His recital will be followed by a vocal recital by Meghnad Kolhapure, Padmini's paternal uncle.

Tomorrow evening, Vashi-based Radhika Budhkar, 31, who plays an equally rare instrument called the vichitra veena, is scheduled to give a performance at the Suburban Music Circle in Juhu. Radhika belongs to a family of musicians. Her grandfather, Balabhau Umdekar, was a veteran singer of the Gwalior gharana and her father Shriram Umdekar is a sitar player who also plays the surbahar and rudra veena.

Radhika was attracted to the sound of the vichitra veena as a child and began learning it under her father when she was just eight years old. Later on, she became a disciple of the world renowned guitar and mohan veena player Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

The vichitra veena is also called the "batta been". Been is a colloquial and non-Sanskritised version of veena.

The vichitra veena is similar in appearance to the rudra veena. For the production of sound a rounded piece of stone, called the batta, is pressed on its strings. The batta been is fretless and has a wooden stem and below it at each end are two gourds called tumbas. Both gourds are fitted to the stem with screws.

The instrument has six playing strings, a dozen sympathetic strings and two high-pitched chikari strings used mainly in the climactic fast-paced jhala phase of the recital. While playing, the musician keeps the instrument on the floor and plucks the strings with a steel wire plectrum worn on the fingers of the right hand. He or she holds a piece of rounded glass that looks like a paperweight in the left hand and slides it across the strings in order to produce the notes. There are extremely few practitioners of this instrument in the country. Budhkar will be followed by a vocal recital by Shailesh Mavinkurve.

- Amarendra Dhaneshwar