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Tribute to musician Prabhavathi Ganesan


Veena exponent Prabhavathi Ganesan, who passed away recently, will be remembered for her bhava-rich and gamaka-laden renditions

When an artiste passes away, only the mortal leaves the world, not the art that entertained and enlightened thousands of admirers. The passing away of veena vidushi Prabhavathi Ganesan, among the senior-most disciples of veena legend Chittibabu, has left a void in the music world. She will be remembered by rasikas for her creativity and immaculate performances.

Prabhavathi started her tutelage at a very young age under Chittibabu and her training was similar to the ‘gurukula’ system. In an earlier interview, she had called her guru an amazing teacher, who showed tremendous patience and personal care. Prabhavathi had told me about her guru’s significant stint as a veena artiste in South Indian films.

She had spoken of her guru’s veena soundtrack for director Sridhar’s Tamil film Kalaikkovil. “I also played the veena for that track. During my initial days, I used to follow my guru’s style a lot, but later, I created a style of my own, adhering to the tradition and integrating the specialities of my guru’s method.”

Prabhavathi gave immense importance to the sahityam, bhavam and gamakam, which added value to veena music. ‘Raghuvamsa sudha’ in Kathanakuthuhalam, popularised by Chittibabu, was played with the same spirit by Prabhavathi. The high point was her rendition of the kriti with a spate of fast-paced sangatis.

About her concert routine, the artiste said, “With marriage, family and children I limited myself mostly to radio concerts. Once my children grew up, I had more time and started giving live concerts in sabhas.” .

Prabhavathi often spoke of how stalwarts like T.N. Seshagopalan, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and T.V. Gopalarkrishnan had helped her evolve her style. “I tried to observe and imbibe the best aspects from them, which helped me understand the nuances of the music besides helping me create a niche for myself in the field.”

Her duet concerts with veena artiste Revathy Krishna were much appreciated because of the perfect coordination that the players demonstrated even though they hailed from different schools of training. Her RTP, which blended the two ragas, Mohanam and Kalyanavasantham, during her concert at The Music Academy in 2014 was praised by aficionados. Prabhavathi also cut a few CDs such as ‘Blissful Veena,’ ‘Veena Lahari’ and ‘Amba Janani.’ Her concert for ‘Veena Mahotsav 2017’ can be viewed on YouTube.

Prabhavathi always wished that more youngsters would learn the veena. It seems her wish has come true — we see a lot of youngsters now playing the veena with great competence and confidence.

The Chennai-based author writes on music and culture.

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