Veena, her constant muse

The TTK Award is another feather in the cap of veteran artiste and teacher Kalyani Ganesan

Veena vidushi Kalyani Ganesan is among the senior musicians who play in the traditional gayaki style. She was trained by veterans like M.A. Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar and Kalpakam Swaminathan in the Central College of Carnatic Music, Madras, the present Government Music College. Later she taught in the same college for 25 years.

The latest of the many accolades she has received is the TTK Award from the Music Academy which will be presented to her at the Sadas on January, 1, 2019.

Kalyani Ganesan was introduced to music by her mother Rajalakshmi Haran, who was trained under ‘Pinpaattu’ Venkatrama Iyer, a disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar. She encouraged young Kalyani to listen to many concerts. A veena recital of Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer she heard on the radio turned her interest to veena.

Kalyani’s father B.P. Haran, who founded United India Publicity Corporation, the first advertising agency of Madras, was particular that no male teacher trained his daughter. It was by coincidence that her mother met Balambal, who studied music at Annamalai University and played the veena. Incidentally, Balambal was the first women student admitted to the Sangita Bhushanam course in Annamalai University. “She was god sent,” says Kalyani, who learnt from her till she completed her schooling.

Gayaki style

Her education then continued in the Central College of Carnatic Music, where she took up veena as the main subject. Both her teachers in the college, M.A. Kalyanakrishna Bhagavathar and Kalpakam Swaminathan were also good singers and the gayaki style of playing the veena came to her naturally. It was a three-year course — pre-vidwan, first year and final year. Kalyani was admitted straight to the first year. This was followed by one-year of pedagog course that is teacher training. “My major was veena and the sub-mains were theory and musicology. The teachers for the theory courses were the greats like Dr. S. Ramanathan. So the fundamentals became strong and the quest for learning was persistent,” she says.

At 19, after an audition at All India Radio, she became a ‘B’ grade artiste. Today she is ‘A Top’ graded artiste.

Initial training

“My first concert in AIR happened a few months after my marriage,” Kalyani smiles. She was married into a family of musicians. Her husband Karaikudi V.M. Ganesan is the son of acclaimed mridangam vidwan Karaikudi Muthu Iyer. The veena vidwan Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, who Kalyani was in awe of as a young student , was Muthu Iyer’s brother-in-law (sister’s husband). Sambasiva Iyer had passed way by then. “But when I expressed my desire to learn the Karaikudi style from his disciples, he advised me to continue to practise my own style, which he found to be natural and distinct,” says Kalyani.

She was keen to do her graduation and post graduation. When a facility for working faculty was announced in Madras University, she enrolled for B.A. Music. Later, she did her M.A. “A permission letter was needed from the college for enrolling in the M.A. course and I will not forget dancer K.J. Sarasa putting in a word to the Principal Thirupampuram Shanmugasundram for the letter. But for her timely help, I would not have done my Masters.The best part is that I did my Masters along with my daughter Shubha Ganesan.”

Kalyani Ganesan is a recipient of Senior Musician award from Narada Gana Sabha, Veena Nada Mani from Charubala Trust, Kalai Nirai Vithagar from Tamil Nadu Government Music College and Sangeetha Seva Niratha from Sri Thyagaraja Vidwat Samajam among other honours.

She teaches many students in India and also students abroad through online classes. She says that she gives priority to the practical aspects of playing the instrument, so that the theoretical part becomes easier to understand. “I had received many tips on how to teach from my father-in-law. Many times, I stop playing and start singing to the student to make them pick up the nuances of the voice and taking them to the instrument.”

Kalyani’s daily routine revolves around music. Her mridangam vidwan-husband and she discuss various aspects of sangitam and the concerts of the past masters. Her daughters, Shubha Ganesan is an ‘A Grade’ artiste in vocal music and Kritika Anand focuses on devotional music and is a ‘B’ High graded artiste of All India Radio. “I continue to learn many compositions either by just listening to veterans or from notations given in authentic books,” she adds.

Kalyani Ganesan will present a lecture-demonstration on Chittaswarams composed by Vainikas at The Music Academy on December 29, at 8.05 a.m.

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