R. Vedavalli: A Virtuoso to Revere

Vidushi par excellence

R. Vedavalli is widely acknowledged as an expert musician adhering strictly to the sampradaya of classical Carnatic Music. Her music has been described by critics as being ‘steeped in classicism, a remarkable musical experience’ [by SVK], of ‘sublime style, rich with flavour’ [DW] a ‘reverence to sampradaya’ [SVK] and of ‘spartan beauty’ with a ‘calm and classical’ [RV] approach. As one summed it up, her credentials for both performing and presenting discourses in Carnatic Music are ‘variegated, impressive and compelling of unstinted admiration’ [KS Mahadevan].

 Vedavalli’s early training was under Sangita Kalanidhi Madurai Srirangam Iyengar. Later she came under the tutelage of the stalwart musician Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer. Scholarships and fellowships have taken her to specialist musicians like Smt T Mukta as well. She started performing at the age of ten, and since then there has been no looking back. She has relentlessly served the cause of Carnatic Music for the last fifty years, giving several performances in India and abroad, presenting several papers and winning innumerable awards and accolades.


An expert musicologist (Lakshanyaka Vidushi)

Not just a performing musician, but also an excellent musicologist, Vedavalli’s lecture-demonstrations are the salient features of music festivals year after year. A Professor till recently at the Tamilnadu Government College of Music, she is an erudite scholar with a clear diction and a vast knowledge of the theory of music. She can deliver extempore lectures on any given topic with amazing ease.


The most adorable Guru

It is a scene only to be seen to be believed of disciples thronging Smt Vedavalli’s house to learn music in the traditional gurukula system. She has groomed many a performing artist, and trained thousands of students at the Music Academy and at the Government College of Music, Madras. Showering motherly love on her students, taking keen interest in their individual progress, making classes interesting and lively by her wit, ‘Amma’ as she is referred to is a strict task master who would not compromise when it comes to music.

She is among the select few senior vidwans chosen by the Government of India to train young musicians under the Cultural Scholarship Scheme.


An earnest Research Scholar

A member of the Experts’ Committee of Music Academy, Madras, Vedavalli has conducted several workshops and seminars and presented many papers to prestigious audiences and in professional journals. She has been awarded the Senior fellowship for research in music by the Government of India, the Sangit Natak Academy Fellowship for specialisation in music, several scholarships from sabhas and institutions dedicated to the cause of music.

A top grade artist in All India Radio, she has presented many features that have won great critical acclaim.

Vedavalli has been assisting the Sangit Natak Academy as co-ordinator for their archival recordings of vidwans in the south of India.


Achievements and Laurels

Vedavalli is a recipient of many prestigious awards and titles including the titles of Divya Gana Pravina, Sangita Choodamani, Kalaimamani, Sangita Ratnakara and Gayaka kula Tilaka Kalpalata. Her list of gold medals and prizes run long and impressive, came as they did ever since she was only a child. More recently, she has been selected for the President’s award of Best Musician 1995 by Sangit Natak Academy.


Versatile Genius

R Vedavalli has an astounding multi-faceted personality. She graduated in Music from the University of Madras. Her knowledge of various languages including Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada enables her to have a deep insight into the artha bhava of compositions. She is a rare combination of performer, pedagogist, musicologist and researcher, in all of which she has been the epitome of excellence. She is a vainika-gayaka vidushi - and can play on the veena very well.

She has scores of Classical and Devotional cassettes to her credit.

It would be apt to conclude with the words of a connoisseur: "Vedavalli’s virtuosity is blessed with a matching scholarship of no mean order, a sparkling voice and high lakshaya gnanam, setting her a little apart even from the other greats in the field" [CV Krishna].

This article has been provided by Chitra Vasudevan who is a student of R. Vedavalli.