CHENNAI: There was pin-drop silence in the audience. The countdown began on an LED screen. Vainika Rajhesh Vaidhya’s nimble fingers pulled the strings of the veena rendering evergreen melodious compositions for one hour. On Sunday, legendary veena player Rajhesh Vaidhya created a record in the Asia Book of Records by performing 60 songs in 60 minutes.
There’s no denying the fact that fans experienced goosebumps when his fingers moved gracefully from playing one song to another without missing a tune. This performance was part of his 100-day celebrations of ‘Do you have a Minute’ series. We got in touch with the musician to know more about the concept.
For the love of music
“I always like trying something new. Recently, I noticed that whenever a link or video was forwarded to friends the reply would come immediately. This means they haven’t watched it fully. Nobody has the time. Something had to be done to get their attention. I decided to do this series to ensure that the song registered in the listeners’ minds in one minute — whether it’s a film, Carnatic or semi-classical song. That’s how we started,” he says.
What started out as an individual effort eventually became a team project. Rajhesh invited his instrumentalists and vocalists in the project to break the monotony. No matter how late he got home after work, a video was uploaded every day at 7 am. “ It was my drummer who suggested that we upload the videos on social media platforms. I never expected it to reach 100 days. People are noticing and messaging me. They’re eagerly waiting to listen to the song of the day. I’ve been receiving concert bookings based on this concept. Who knows, there might be a series on 75 songs in 75 minutes or even 100, provided people have the time to sit and listen,” he shares.
There’s no particular preference for the choice of songs in the playlist. The musician plays what comes to his mind. He has 1,400 songs in his list including personal favourites and recommendation from fans. The series will continue. He has uploaded three songs in the past three days. He is expected to play next on late veteran director K Balachander’s birth anniversary on July 9. Considering his 18-year association with the director, Rajhesh is preparing some popular numbers. He also wants to include meaningful compositions by Tamil poets and a few keerthanais in his list.
It was Rajhesh’s mother who insisted he played the veena, while his first choice was mridangam. He eventually developed a passion for the veena and ended up playing 12-14 hours a day. “I always touch my veena only after praying to God. The veena is my baby. I scold, appreciate and have conversations with her. It somehow reflects in my performance. Even when I go abroad, I’d rather spend some alone time with my veena than go sightseeing,” says Rajhesh, who is busy juggling national and international tours for performances.
When Rajhesh Vaidhya plays you don’t need the lyrics to understand the emotion of the song. He interacts with his audience through facial expressions, by mouthing the lyrics, and improvises music spontaneously in a way that does not overpower but only adds beauty to the whole experience. “I enjoy performing with all musicians. I teach them a few musical notes. There are different ones for instruments and vocals. I take their singing the way it is and enhance it with my performance,” he says. In the past few days, quite a few musicians have started taking inspiration from ‘Do you have a minute’ series. He hopes to come up with more such innovations.