BENGALURU: Sudha Vadiraj, 70 year old veteran Veena player, wakes up at 4 am and prays to an image of Saraswati placed on a wooden platform. She then plays the instrument until 6 am. If it’s a Monday then she dedicates her rendering to Lord Shiva by playing songs or krutis, if it is a Saturday its is Srinivasa’s songs.She has given numerous performances in Rajajinagara Sangeeta Sabha, Gayana Samaja, and has been featured by All India Radio, Doordarshan and other private channels.
“She has her very own style of playing the Veena that she has imbibed teachings of different gurus. The lyrics demand perfect strokes and she never spares us until we learnt a composition perfectly,” says Shubha Santosh, her student.At a time when all seemed to be doing well for Sudha, she developed a neurological condition that impaired her movement. She was in extreme pain and couldn’t walk properly.
“For one to two years I was bed ridden. I remembered nothing (almost) during those days, except how to play veena. Slowly, I started playing very slowly. Though I could not sit down on the floor holding it, I could sit on an elevated platform and play. With my family’s support especially my husband’s, I recovered,” says Sudha.
Though it took time, but her recovery with the Veena went so well that today she trains people to play the instrument. Recently she was conferred ‘Lalita Kala Suma’ by Sri Rama Lalita Kala Mandira. Following her footsteps her students have achieved great success in the music field and she is an inspiration to many musicians.
Sudha has been trained under M J Srinivasa Iyengar, Prof R N Doreswamy, Prof R Vishveshwara and M A Narasimhachar, Lalgudi A Padmavathi and Neela Ramgopal. She has a BA (music, history and economics) and is a graduate in library sciences.
Her performances abroad include Detroit, Hamilton Square, Atlanta - US. Sudha has also given a lecture demonstrating the ragas and rare compositions. Her audio CDs include ‘Divine Strings’, ‘Veena Kampana’ and many more. She was recognised as ‘Artist of the Year’ in the year 2000 by Gayana Samaja’s Annual festival.
Her husband Vadiraj, a BE, ME, IIM(A) MBA degree holder used to work for the Western Railways. Recalling her days of being a learner, Sudha says, “After learning basics from M J Srinivas Iyengar, I was fortunate to have Prof N Doreswamy and Prof R Vishveshwara as my professors in college”.
Following that, M A Narsimhachaar, Neela Ramgopal taught her thematic presentations. After few years she heard that Padmavathi Ananthagopalan who resided in Chennai frequently visited Bengaluru. “I wanted to learn just thillaanas from her, but ended up taking advanced classes,” says Sudha. Padmavathi stayed in Jayanagar 9th block and Sudha used to be at her place at 5.30 am and come back at 6 am before her kids woke up.
She has been a graded veena player at AIR and has been an active artist. “During those days, AIR grading happened after each concert and getting good grades was a difficult task and the panel at AIR judged us also on how we include percussionists in our concert,” says Sudha.