Saturday, 16 June 2007

Mrudangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao: When musical streams meet together

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabadis were treated to a rare musical feat, on the eve of the
World Music Day, by Mrudangam maestro Yella Venkateswara Rao
and his team of 100 artistes. The concept was also rare and never
presented before in the country.
Venkateswara Rao, who has become synonymous with Mrudangam
with his unique style blended with the classical tradition, musically
captured the origin of the Holy Ganges and its tributaries the Yamuna
and the mythical Saraswati and took the audience through the
civilisations enroute till they merge into what is known as Triveni
Sangamam or the confluence of the three holy rivers.
The symphony, aptly named Triveni Sangamam, was organised by
Chaitanya Art Theatres. It was unique in that Venkateswara Rao and
his team narrated the entire episode lasting 90 minutes without
depending on lyrics. It was all pure music and Venkateswara Rao
ensured that the concert was enlivening and interesting.
He and his team used a variety of ragas and musical instruments to
create a spiritual aura for the audience as they took them on an
experience of a never-ending journey of the three holy rivers that
formed part of the Indian civilisation for ages and continues even now.
They made the audience the feel of the rivers, the splashing of the
waters under the influence of gentle winds, the dangerous curves they
take as they flow through the ridges and the valleys and the greenery
they create all along their routes. In short, Venkateswara Rao created an
altogether different world of music of his own and transported the
audience into it for an equally different feeling.
"I have chosen the Triveni Sangamam theme because we cannot
separate our rivers from our civilisation. Ganga, the most sacred river,
chisels through the Himalayas and meanders through the plains
exhibiting various moods, colours and attitudes while blessing millions
of lives on her journey to the ocean. Even in art, Ganga is visualised as
a beautiful maiden, carrying an overflowing pot in her hand. The vessel
conveys the idea of abundant life and fertility, which nourishes and
sustains the universe. Just as the confluence of Yamuna and Saraswati
with Ganga forms the Triveni Sangamam, this union of voice,
instruments and dance has created a musical symphony," Venkateswara
Rao points out.
The maestro had carefully chosen three different patterns (tribhinna) of
Gaana, Laya and Nritya to showcase the magic that the Ganga weaves
in a ragamalika of three ragas entwined with traditional dance forms.
Venkateswara Rao has already carved out a niche for himself in the
world of percussion and the Triveni Sangamam has simply added
another feather to the cap of this distinguished musician.
The symphony comprised of various musical instruments like ghatam,
violin, tabla, nadaswaram, dhol, mrudangam, bhasuri, saxophone and
veena among others. And managing as many as 50 instruments is really
a Herculean task. And Venkateswara Rao has proved once again that he
is maestro par excellence.

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