Strings of Melody

Veena virtuoso Ananthapadmanabhan and his art are a testimony to the grand musical heritage of India, values, principles and charm of an era gone by, says Divya Menon

His nimble fingers, unusually long, run across the Veena, one among the most ancient stringed musical instruments that the world has ever known. Plucking on the strings of this divine instrument with unmatched dexterity producing the finest musical notes is Ananthapadmanabhan, one of the greatest musical geniuses that India has ever produced. The soft-spoken, pleasant maestro and his art that cannot be caged within fetters instituted by the changes of time, remain a testimony to the grand musical heritage of India, musical values, principles and charm of times gone by.

Born in Thiruvananthapuram to Rugmini and Sri Ananthakrishna Iyer, a Veena playing Civil Engineer, into the musical ambience of a joint family, music was constantly and unintentionally ‘injected’ into the young boy from a very early age. It was only natural for him to pick up his father’s Veena and experiment with its strings and the sounds they made forming an instant connection that was to last forever.  After having acquired basic lessons from his father and the musicality of Gomathi, an older cousin and uncontrollably inspired by the magical music of legendary Vainika, Sri S. Balachander, each day used to be spent in continuous hours of practice despite the fact that he had no formal guru or tutor. Little did he know that the calling of his life would be in these strings and he went on to pursue a degree in Mathematics from the Mahatma Gandhi College in Thiruvananthapuram. Evidently, music still was not a career option. However, at the age of 20, he gave his first public performance at a temple in Thiruvananthapuram and at 24, he joined the All India Radio as the ‘Nilaya Vidwan’; the rest is history as they say!  At AIR he led a very active musical life for 36 years until retirement in 2011. The experience was unique and educational in several ways for it was during this time that the largely self-taught musician was able to compose mesmerising music for AIR’s various segments and also meet stalwarts in the field, learn much more and play for them too.

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