Thursday, 20 December 2012

Veena Seshanna's tillanas

By Siddhartha Jagannath

The Music Academy
Chennai, 18 December 2012

Prof Mysore V Subramanya, a grandson of Veena Seshanna, presented a lec-dem on the tillanas of Seshanna, accompanied on the veena by Prof Rajalakshmi Tirunarayanan and Ratna Prabha, who demonstrated the tillanas. 

In his introduction, Subramanya said Seshanna, a disciple of the legendary Mysore Sadasiva Rao, had composed seventeen tillanas, while working in the court of Mysore during the reign of Chamarajendra Wodeyar. The demonstration began with a tillana in raga Kedaram, followed by tillanas in many other ragas like Kalyani, Sankarabharanam, Hindustani Kapi (which to me was the best), Darbari Kanada, Khamas, Behag and ending with the popular tillana in Chenchurutti. Between two pieces, Subramanya introduced the tillana to follow. He said that Seshanna used the mudra ‘Sesha’. 

There are unmistakable western music influences, especially in the Kalyani and Khamas tillanas. The tillanas are written in Telugu, although the sahitya part in the tillana is brief and found only in the last charanam.

R. Vedavalli commented that the beautiful jatis in tillanas can be clearly heard only in vocal music as opposed to the veena. She also said that janta prayogas—a hallmark of Seshanna—usually suit only certain ragas, but Veena Seshanna cleverly manages to use these prayogas in any raga (as in Khamas) and makes them work for the composition. Dr MB Vedavalli pointed out the unique veena plucking style of the Mysore school and pointed out the Hindustani and Western influences in the Mysore school. These tillanas she said are melody oriented and hence more suited for music concerts than dance performances.

There was more demonstration than lecture, which was great, as there is no better way of beginning your day than with the sounds of the veena. Seshanna tillanas on a veena duet was a bonus this morning. The two vainikas left the audience spellbound with their flawless veena playing.

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