Saturday, April 24, 2010

Maestro takes up cudgels for rudraveena

When you enter Pandit Hindraj alias Digambar Shivaram Divekar's home in Tulshibaug, the first thing you notice is the peculiar string instrument that rests in his drawing room. The rudra veena, one of the most ancient musical instruments, is on the way to its decline.

Pandit Divekar is one of the few maestros of the musical instrument in the country. He recently returned from a 15-day Europe tour. He visited Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and Holland, where people showed a lot of interest in the instrument.

The rudra veena saw a decline after the 19th century and other string instruments such as the sitar and veena gained popularity. "The rudra veena produces a low frequency sound and the vibrations go on for 16 seconds. The microphone doesn't catch these low frequency vibrations," said Pandit Divekar, while explaining the reason of the decline of this instrument. He adds that earlier there weren't any sophisticated instruments to amplify the sound. But now, with the new technology, there are chances of revival of the rudra veena.

The instrument has a long tubular body made of wood or bamboo. Two large-sized round resonators made of dried and hollowed gourds are attached under the tube. Twenty-four brass-fitted raised wooden frets are fixed on the tube with the help of wax. The instrument, which was played in the durbars of various rajas and maharajas in the 19th century, has a peacock decoration on it. "The peacock's sound range completed the whole octave of music. Hence, the peacock has a lot of importance in music," said Pandit Divekar.

Panditji has been touring in India and abroad to increase awareness about rudra veena. He started travelling abroad in 1979 and has toured across Australia and Europe. "I have many foreigners coming to me to learn the rudra veena. But unfortunately, in our country, there isn't much awareness and scope to learn it and keep the tradition alive," he said.

Panditji's grandfather Chintoba Divekar was a noted theatre artiste and his disciples included Deenanath Mangeshkar and Lata Mangeshkar. His father Shivaram Divekar alias Hindgandharva was a noted rudra veena player and Pandit Divekar started learning the instrument from him at the age of eight.

The rudra veena has been associated to Lord Shiva and therefore during the Mughal rule, its name changed to been. Pandit Divekar has been trying hard to revive this instrument in the mainstream music scenario.

He said that universities should introduce this instrument in their curriculum and youth groups should also try and promote it. "I am doing my bit by teaching the instrument and I have also started a website to create awareness on a worldwide level," he said. He added that due to websites such as YouTube, he can add his videos and create awareness among young people.

"Various ragas, bandish and teen taals can be played on the rudra veena. It creates a heavenly voice. It has been appreciated by Europeans and I have had a few Swiss and Portuguese students studying the instrument under me," he said. He added that as the instrument is on a decline, there aren't many craftsmen making it.

"I use the rudra veena which my father used and it is 118 years old. In Maharashtra, the rudra veena is made only in Miraj," he said. Pandit Divekar feels that if the rudra veena is promoted at music festivals such as Pune Festivals or the Sawai Gandharva, it will help in its revival. This mother of all string instruments needs to be nurtured and cherished.

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