“Let your music speak for you.”
Veena Sahasrabuddhe, the noted Hindustani classical musician and exponent of the Gwalior gharana passed away on Wednesday, 29 June 2016. She was 67.
Sahasrabuddhe learnt music under the tutelage of her father, Pandit Shankar Shripad Bodas, and her brother, Pandit Kashinath Shankar Bodas. She was known for her khayal and bhajan renditions. The awards and recognitions she won included the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2013.
In Sahasrabuddhe’s own words, however, the road to earning acclaim, was one paved with hard work. She recalled lessons from her father (who told a young Veena that her music must speak for her): Pandit Shankar grounded her in the importance of honest self-analysis when it came to her performances, as well as in the basics of various musical instruments, reading and writing musical notes. (Sahasrabuddhe played the tabla, and trained in Kathak as well.)
In her later years, these were skills that Sahasrabuddhe insisted her students learn as well. While her husband Prof Hari Sahasrabuddhe taught computer science at IIT-Kanpur, Veenatai herself was busy instilling in students on campus the nuances of musical appreciation, as well as training a choir. This was in addition to her work with other disciples, including Shivani Shende, Ranjani Ramachandran and Jayanti Sahasrabuddhe. With them, she was reportedly as much friend as guide, with Ranjani Ramachandran recounting in one interview how a nervous Veenatai awoke early one morning to make sheera for her student, who had an important performance that day.
Sahasrabudhe professed to love all forms of music — her background may have been in Indian classical music, but that didn’t stop her from appreciating the works of Mozart or Beethoven. She also had a fondness for the songs of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.
Veenatai laid great emphasis on understanding music in order to appreciate it. With that view in mind, she made it a point to always begin each of her concerts with a little explanation about the raag, its origins, and composer; a major project over the past few years had been two CDs she released along with her husband on the subject of music appreciation.
“Gifted with a voice that captivated scores of music lovers, Veenaji’s meteoric rise to fame through the 1980s and 1990s is still a phenomenon that musicians and students of music remember. A prolific performer with much of her music recorded on various formats, Veenaji has left behind a large body of work that would inspire coming generations," said renowned musician Aneesh Pradhan to Firstpost.
Pradhan added that he had first heard Veenatai in 1986, when "she sang an exquisite Mia ki Malhar at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal". "I played a tabla solo and accompanied another vocalist on this occasion, but was not fortunate enough to accompany Veenaji here. However, I got a chance to interact with her during this trip and experience her musicianship at close quarters," said Pradhan.
"I later had the opportunity to accompany her on a few occasions. Her precise intonation, neat presentation, and variety of repertoire, were all there for everyone to experience and enjoy. Her ease with the laya or rhythmic aspect was equally evident. In fact, she was able to play the tabla and accompany herself in practice sessions, as was the tradition with many vocalists of the previous generations but something that seems to have lost significance today. This was not about being able to multi-task, which in itself is difficult. Instead, it was a reflection of the manner in which Veenaji and earlier vocalists had internalised the rhythmic cycle to let it flow like a parallel track and making a rendezvous with it every so often in a manner that was not self-conscious... Veenaji will be missed by those who have heard her live in concerts across the country and overseas, but her recorded work will continue to enrapture listeners,” he added.
"I try very hard to be perfect," Sahasrabuddhe once said in an interview with The Hindu. And in her pursuit of musical perfection, Veenatai never gave up.
Updated Date: Jun 30, 2016 12:46 PM