Playing by the ear

City-based veena player Madhavi chooses to play intricate fusion compositions in her concerts

By Author  |  Published: 12th May 2019  12:30 amUpdated: 11th May 2019  11:56 am

Veena is an instrument that’s associated with Carnatic music, with most veena players skilfully plucking the strings, with intricate ragas of Carnatic music emanating from the instrument. But, playing film songs, western compositions and even Hollywood movie soundtracks on the veena is something that’s seen rarely and that is exactly what KDB Madhavi, a city-based veena player usually chooses to play in her concerts. The 21-year-old techie is known for her intricate fusion compositions.

It all started when she was just six, when her music-loving parents enrolled her in Carnatic vocal classes. “My parents love music and when I started humming songs when I could barely speak, they realised I’m inclined towards music. So, when the time came, they enrolled me in music classes. I learnt singing for a few months but, later, felt I should pick up an instrument after seeing my mom play the veena and that’s how I started learning the veena from D Lakshmi Tulasi. It was through her consistent encouragement that I was able to grasp the nuances of this complex instrument,” she shares.

It was a few years later when a popular TV channel started a reality show for instrumental musicians that she started fusion music. “In the selection rounds and later rounds, I was asked to play film songs on the veena. That was when I started attempting to play songs that I heard, on the veena. The fact that I learnt the basics of music twice (for vocal and for the veena) helped me a lot as I had a strong base to go ahead with and I could easily play by the ear and improvise,” says the musician with over 150 shows to her credit.

This still continues as whenever she listens to a song for the first time, she feels like playing it on the veena and it is this interest of hers that enabled her to play a lot of different genres on the instrument. From soundtracks of Pirates of the Carribbean to Harry Potter to Telugu film songs, Madhavi skilfully plays them all to enthral her audiences at all her concerts.

However, it hasn’t been entirely smooth for her as she has faced criticism for her choice of music. “I am constantly asked why I play western music or film songs on the veena. I believe music is music, irrespective of the genre, and, in fact, it is highly challenging to play different genres on this instrument while retaining the same beauty. It is challenging because the original tracks are usually loved by many and I have to do justice to that. I enjoy the challenge and it helps me overcome the criticism,” explains Madhavi, who has taken part and secured the top slots in many State- and national-level music competitions.

The recipient of the highly prestigious Indian Raga Fellowship says what she loves about her style of music is the freedom it allows her. “With fusion, I have a lot of freedom to improvise and, in fact, this is why I love playing live as opposed to uploading videos on the internet as I attempt something new in every single performance, even if I’m doing the same tracks,” concludes Madhavi who is currently pursuing her Master’s in music and plans to do a lot of fusion concerts in the near future.