The quietness of the Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple Street in Basavanagudi belies the monotonous sounds of the city that is choked with traffic at all times of the day. However, a music lover gets the feeling of striking the right note when he enters Veena Works, one of the four or five shops in the city which still manufacture and repair the traditional music instrument.
Entering the shop, one steps into a world of distinct rhythm. Veena, the instrument of Saraswati is the life of this shop even though they cater to other traditional instruments as well.
Over 40 veenas are hung on the walls. The pleasant fragrance of wood wafts up from the freshly manufactured veenas. Raw materials required to make the veena like strings, wood, wooden pieces and other materials were strewn all over the place.
For V Raju, owner of the store, manufacturing and repairing Veenas is a passion as well as pleasure. Customers come knocking on the doors of the shop with almost the same queries: “Is my veena ready?” “Can you give me the first string of instrument?”. Raju answers with a smile to all questions.
Started in 1960s by V Krishnan, Veena Stores has remained as one of the best places where artistes rush in to get their instruments repaired. V Raju who took over the shop from his father knows the secret of making perfect veenas.
It is well known that manufacturing this string instrument requires patience and perseverance. Speaking on the process of manufacturing, Raju said, “We select the fine jackfruit wood from the localities on the outskirts of the city or sometimes in our vicinity. We later create the bridge or ‘gori’ (the round part of Veena); a wooden sheet is later used to cover the bridge. Then a variety of designs, especially, Goddess Saraswathi and peacock, are carved on it. A wide fretted neck is later attached to this round body, the end of which is carved into the head of a dragon, which is considered to be auspicious. Besides, a resonator has to be attached on the underside of the neck.”
To help him with the carvings, Raju has employed two artistes. Their assistance comes in handy especially while making a veena.
Which is the most difficult task in manufacturing a veena? “Embedding the 24 metal frets on a hardened wax. It consumes time. We use brass plates and strings are tied to them. I have to make sure that the tune of one string is perfectly in-sync with the other.”
The silliest mistake on the part of the manufacturer will spoil the instrument. But when perfection is maintained, the music that resonates from this instrument of Saraswati is divine and magical.
However, Raju’s expertise is not limited to veena alone.
Artistes come to his door and bring harmonium, violin, tabala, tambura, sitar, mandolin and other instruments for repair.
His precision has earned him and his shop a good name in the world of music.
“But there is a dearth of skilled workers. As a result, there are only 5-6 manufactures in Bangalore,” says Raju. According to him, the sales of Veena are quite high. The prices of Veena range from ` 5,000-20,000.
“When we get orders to make a veena, we take over 15 days to give it a complete look. The price of the veena depends on the artistic carving on the wood and the wood quality.”
Very few are aware that Raju repaired veenas for the maestro R K Suryanarayana but was also his disciple.
“I learnt the basics from him to understand how a veena should sound when played. I adopt these intricacies while manufacturing the Veena,” he added.
Many big names in the music world including Jayanthi Kumaresh, Prashanth Iyengar, Shanthi Rao and others usually get their veenas repaired here. Raju has also got customers from US, UK and other countries. Nowadays, when the timeless classical music instruments are being ignored in the face of glamorous Western electronic instruments, Veena Works is rendering yeomen service for the cause of classical music.