Veena Sahasrabuddhe: A Gayaki Yet To Explore

Veena Ji (1948-2016)

I heard Veena Ji twice in the spic Macay concerts in Delhi. The first time I heard I did not understand the effectiveness of her gayaki as I was too immature for that. The next time when she was about to perform, my Guru recommended me to listen to her and with the open eyes this time, jotting the crispy notes analyzing whatever she sang. I obviously attended the concert as it was like an assignment for me. It was way too complex for me but I analyzed and noted in my diary. I recorded the whole performance to note down further at home. I think this is the best thing I did: I recorded it. I heard the recording repeatedly for few weeks and explored something new and peculiar every time I heard.

Veena Sahasrabuddhe, a renowned Gwalior gharana vocalist, passed away on June, 29th, due to Parkinson disease, leaving Indian classical music on an incomplete journey. Again, the music world is reminiscing the transcended standards set by the great stalwart, leaving it halfway.

VeenaTai’s journey towards Swaras

Veena Ji, popularly known as Veena tai (elder sister in Marathi) by her disciples and other connoisseurs, was a skilled combination of sweetness and vigour. Her gayaki demonstrated a stabilized blend of Jaipur and Kirana styles, apart from the Gwalior heritage. However, she was gifted a musical family background, an eminent Bodas family of Kanpur, where her father, Shankarrao Shripad Bodas and brother Kashinath Bodas had been nurturing her with various Gwalior techniques. She also achieved talim by Padmasree Pt. Balwantrai Bhatt and Pt. Gajananbuwa Joshi.

A captivating Gayaki

Veena Ji had an immense vitality and simplicity in the treatment of notes which could hook the audience for hours. Beginning a raga, she immediately featured the prarambhik aalap with its captivating twists, imprinting her gayaki peculiarity on its first page. Her nectarous voice, powerful though, with the added softness imbibed a new folds to the ragas she presented. Preferring the mid-pace instead of the overly-slow (ati-vilambit) rhythm in the bada khayal was another exceptional features of her gayaki, which engaged even the laymen. Her mandra notes were exceedingly deep and resonant that one could meditate in the moments. Her melodic phrases combined with rhythmic intonations with effortless voyage within all three octaves manifested the jaipur gayaki and its characteristics.

Another characteristic of her singing, one perhaps influenced by the Jaipur gharana, was repeating the same note twice or thrice in a melodic phrase, before moving on to the next. The subtlety and swiftness while acquiring the upper notes and phrases implicitly reflected her ages-spend competence and contemplation.

According to an article in The wire, “Veena Ji’s bol-tans and tans (the patterns exploring the notes of the raga within the rhythmic cycle) were robust, with a profusion of gamaks. And a thread running through all her presentations was her wonderful voice modulation – soft, strong, at all times expressive. Some disapproved of her ‘jabde ka tan’ (jaw movement while singing tans), but the richness of her note patterns and force of her renditions overshadowed this shortcoming.”


Veena Ji as a Bhajan Exponent

Apart from the Khyala gayaki, she was well-known for the bhajans, especially her scintillating style of singing Kabir bhajan, ‘Man lago mero yaar fakiri’. Once she had a bhajan recital at Sawai Gandharva music festival in Pune, when Pt. Bhimsen Joshi heard and invited her at his concert. That was the era when Veena tai uplifted with fame as a vocalist.


Knowledgeable Aspect

She presented a few lectures, workshops, seminars and music conferences, primarily in IIT Kanpur, in which she explained and shared her vast and deep knowledge in the ragas. Listen to this short clipping from later years, where she speaks of subtle differences between Ragas of the same scale. Her experience as a teacher comes through when you listen to how effortlessly she changes the Ragas Puriya, Sohini and Marwa that are from one scale.