Well-known veena player Shanti Rao travelled a lot for her performances and found that hauling around a bulky instrument came with its own hazards. “Many veena makers were working towards solving this problem with veenas that could be dismantled and reassembled,” she says. She was not convinced about the tone though.
“When the concept of digital or magnetic pickups was introduced, the guitar technology of just having frets and bridges to hold strings without resonators came into vogue. I found small veenas designed for children, and fitted with them with a normal bridge and fretboard that was user friendly and convenient for amplification,” she explains.
This was just one step. The size had been reduced but the tone had to be improved. This is where Raju, an artisan from Veena Works, Basavanagudi, came to her aid.
He had been restoring old veenas and customising them for concert performance. By reducing the thickness of the top plank and adding a sound post, like on the violin, the resonance was vastly improved, Shanti says. The emphasis is not just on sturdiness and portability. “I now have a veena that is small enough to be packed in a box with sound quality equal to any full-sized concert veena,” she says.
A student of Shanti who has used the veena, vouches for her. “The greatest plus point is that this is very easy to carry around. It is also easy to practise on, and I find the sound quality similar to what we find on any regular veena with a pickup,” she says.
Veena artiste Ramu Natarajan says the smaller instrument has rich tonal quality.” It’s easy to handle, very covenient to play and there is hardly any maintenance cost. It’s skillfully and intelligently crafted,” he says.
The smaller veena is not in mass production yet, but Shanti says those interested can contact Raju on 98457 44693.