The Burra Veena is a stringed instrument unique to Telangana, which might soon go extinct. And Dasari Kondappa, from Damaragidda village in Narayanpet district is the last remaining musician who can play it.
Like his forefathers, Kondappa too made his livelihood with the Burra Veena, performing songs and telling stories.
"The Burra Veena is related to 'Bhoomi Veena' and the tribal 'Villadi Vadyalu' (an instrument played with a bow string). It is an amalgamation of many stringed instruments and Kondappa, the only living human being who can play the Burra Veena in Telangana, plays it with small tingling bells and he can produce 24 sounds, leave alone the ragas he plays," says Professor Manoja from Palamuru University in Mahbubnagar.
Manoja was among a group of researches who discovered Kondappa and are now ensuring his musical revival. They also documented his work for academic purposes.
Like other indigenious players, Kondappa makes his own instrument. This is a year-long process.
"One has to find the ideal gourd, let it dry and empty its contents to make the body. We remove the seeds and take a straight stick and fix it to the body, tie the strings at the top and bottom. We use 3 strings and make this Burra Veena ourself," Kondappa tells TNM.
Professor Manoja says that with his music and story telling, Kondappa is perhaps one of the few remaining proponents of the Bhakti Movement, a theistic trend in Hinduism that led to large-scale social reform as it offered an individual-focused path to spirituality, rather than a caste-based one.
Despite this, Kondappa and his Burra Veena have few takers and the reason is caste.
"The impediment or hurdle in making Burra Veena enter into society might be Dasari Kondappa's caste. He is a Mala Dasari (Dalit). He says that it might be the reason people never came to him, to learn that," Manoja adds.
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