Linking India to Kuwait through Music: The One and Only Veena Guru in Kuwait.

Jisha Subin Jagdish
Sunday, May 7, 2017

Veena is one of the most ancient south Indian instruments. However, amongst the multitude of string instruments we get to see, the Veena is a rarity here in Kuwait. In fact, there is only one Music school in Kuwait which offers training in Veena. Great pleasure in introducing Ms. Sijitha Rajesh, the one and only Veena Guru in Kuwait, Music Teacher at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the Head of Thamburu School of Music. IIK team was lucky enough to have visited Thamburu musics on 4th March 2017 and have a chit chat with Ms. Sijitha Rajesh.

Jisha Subin Jagdish: How and when did your journey in Music begin? Where you passionate on Veena from the beginning or you started with vocal or some other instrument and later moved to Veena?

Sijitha Rajesh: I used to sing anything I heard since childhood and was always very keen to learn songs. The very first song I learnt was from a nearby Church. I used to find a beauty in those choir songs and wait for Sundays to come. Another source was All India Radio.

I was scared to perform on open stage and my parents also encouraged only academics. My first competition experience was when I was selected for a school competition while in 5th standard. I was always a back-stage singer for dance performances as in those days USBs for background music was not available. When I was doing my pre-degree, my cousin sister happened to hear my background song and she sought admission for me in Swathi Thirunal College of Music in Veena. That was a turning point in my life. For the first time, I saw the Veena. My cousin sister is therefore my first Guru and she handed over the Veena to my lap for the first time.

JSJ: Veena is based on Indian classical music. Do you believe that Indian Music can be linked to the Kuwaiti or Arabic Music through Veena? Have you ever played any Arabic Music on the Veena?

Sijitha Rajesh : It is misconception that only Indian classical music can be played in Veena. I don’t feel Veena is an instrument which can take only Indian music. Veena should not be cornered that way. I play Western and Arabic in Veena.

There was a program organized by UNESCO at the Embassy during last year. The crowd was of different nationalities and there were about 25 Kuwaiti musicians. When I completed Veena performance Kuwaiti musicians gave the honor of playing Veena along with them on their music. It was indeed a great recognition and honor. The advantage of classical music is such that once you have the base in classical music you can follow any type of music and repeat the same.

JSJ: Do you perform for Public programs?

Sijitha Rajesh : Yes, I do perform both Vocal and Veena. Arrangements for Veena performance is time consuming. Hence, many of the organizers do not opt Veena considering the difficulty in setting the stage.

The first public program was a one and half hour long Veena performance at Crowne Plaza for a Marriage function. I regularly perform for Embassy events. I once did a program for Music therapy where we bought the audience to a special mood with the performance of Ragas.

Apart from these, every year myself and students perform for Trinity Fest organized by Ragamalika, Navrathri performances and our annual days. We are the only Veena performers at Trinity Fest since last 3 years and the performances are well appreciated by the audience. Thamburu was fortunate enough to present 30 Veenas together on stage on Trinity Fest-2017 which was a first for the State of Kuwait.

JSJ: Can you give a brief about Veena and the benefits of learning Veena for IIK viewers?

Sijitha Rajesh : Veena is close to human body. The 24 Frets of Veena represents the number of back bones. Dead cells of brain will be stimulated directly when we play Veena with finger tips. It helps in increasing concentration and coordination.

JSJ: You are the only Veena Guru in Kuwait. Initially the Veena was not popular here. How did you manage to make it popular in Kuwait?

Sijitha Rajesh : I came to Kuwait with 2 Veenas for myself to practice and teach my kids. Within 2 months I got a chance to perform for a program and two kids joined me that day and they are continuing since last 7 years.

We arranged a few programs to popularize Veena here in Kuwait and many more students came forward seeing the Veena performance.

Now the students get 3 programs in a year, Trinity Fest, Navrathri program and the Annual Day.



JSJ: I believe Veena is not available in Kuwait. Is this a limiting factor for more to come forward for Veena?

Sijitha Rajesh : Veena is not available in Kuwait. We have to ship them from India. I arrange for my students or I give contacts to students and they bring it during vacation from India. Again, bringing from India is not as simple as we think. We must bring it carefully and size is also a factor while bringing in flight.

Also, people find it difficult to keep at home also as it occupies space.

JSJ: Veena is considered as female oriented and Veena is always been portrayed as a feminine instrument. What is the reason behind it?

Sijitha Rajesh: Veena was originally used in palaces by thampuratiis for their own entertainment. That is how this concept developed. During those days, only Brahmins used to use Veena.

Veena is not a feminine instrument, there are men as well. In fact, there are many men performers such as Shri. Ananda Padamanabhan, Rajesh Vydya, Veena Rajesh, Soundarya Raj, Salil.

I have 3 male students including my son who are learning Veena currently.

JSJ: There is a general saying that today’s children are more towards western music. What is your opinion about this? Have you seen this tendency in your students?

Sijitha Rajesh: There is actually a tendency in today’s children towards western and initially I tried to change. Now I teach children that both are important and it is better to have a good base in Carnatic so that they can perform both. Once you have a base in Carnatic you can learn any type of music.

JSJ: Do you believe students should stick 100% to classical or do you suggest that children should be able to handle all type of music according to the situation? What is your view?

Sijitha Rajesh: Children should be able to perform all type of music. But whatever you learn you should master it. That said, a classical base is always helpful to master and bring out the best of your abilities.

JSJ: Personally you would like to be known as a Veena Guru or Vocal Guru? Which is more satisfying? Can you share a proud moment as a Veena Guru?

Sijitha Rajesh: Veena is my main instrument. For Veena, a sound base in Vocal is essential. Once you learn vocal it will be easier for veena. Notes are same and we have to know all aspects of music for mastering Veena. However, I like to be known as a Veena teacher because there are many vocal teachers but a Veena teacher is unique.

JSJ: Any memorable incident as a Veena Guru?

Sijitha Rajesh: The most memorable and satisfying moment was when I performed at UNESCO program. It was indeed a great opportunity to perform an Indian instrument along with Kuwaiti musicians for their song. It was telecasted on Kuwait TV.

JSJ: What message would you like to pass onto music lovers in Kuwait?

Sijitha Rajesh: There are many well experienced musicians in Kuwait and there are many music programs as well. So, my message is to small children who learn music. Learning music will help in developing concertation, coordination, organization and help your studies. Learn good music and you will get the results automatically in all aspects of life. Music is the best way to express emotions.



JSJ: Finally, a brief about your family and music? Please describe your family member's musical interests and other hobbies.

Sijitha Rajesh: Husband, Mr. Rajesh Gopinathan, was also a Music college graduate. He is working in Gulf Consult as a Safety engineer. He is a good dancer and learning violin currently. Elder Son, Aswin plays drums and learning mridangam as well. Younger son Aadithya Violin, Mridangam and veena. He sings as well. Our dream is to have a chance for all four of us to perform together on a stage.

JSJ: Thank you Maam for your time in sharing your experiences as one and only Veena Guru for IIK viewers. I am sure it will be beneficial for all music lovers, especially for students.

Sijitha Rajesh: Thanks to IIK for the opportunity.


Jisha Subin Jagdish is working with Independent Petroleum Group as Economic Analyst. She is a Post Graduate in Anthropology and has published research articles in this field. During her stint as a Research Assistant at Kuwait University, Jisha started contributing to various Anthropological and Sociological Journals, an exercise she continues to date. On a lighter perspective, she writes short stories, poems and plays in Malayalam and English. Her hobbies include pencil drawings and craft works.


Express your comment on this article

 
Juben George John
Posted on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Congratulations Sijitha teacher..

salman
Posted on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

VEENA....it is considered as the one of toughest instrument to be played if to be tuned in the line of saptaswara...

Jisha
Posted on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

@ Ms. Bindu - You can contact Ms. Sijitha on this number 55185139

bindu venu
Posted on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Can I get Ms.Sijitha Rajesh contact Number

vijayesh.k.v
Posted on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Good Day!!!
Dear IIK,

well narrated....
Hope for more such interesting interviews.....

Regards
VKV

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