A Hyderabad-based musician, who calls herself Veena Srivani, is taking over the internet with her melodious mashup of Ed Sheeran’s 2017 pop-hit Shape of You and the 1994 AR Rahman classic Urvasi. The veena player, who has been playing the instrument since she was seven years old, has garnered a wide audience with her fusion covers of popular English songs like Ellie Goulding’s 2015 Love me like you do and, more recently, the theme song of the Game of Thrones series.
The musician gained acclaim in 2018 when her cover of Shankar Mahadevan’s Breathless was posted by Mahadevan and by industrialist Anand Mahindra.
“Friends are telling me they are speechless,” she said in an interview, “Wow, I can’t express my feelings! He [Mahadevan] mentioned blessings and shared the video as well.”
Inspired by Carnatic musician MS Subbulakshi, the veena virtuoso trained with Seetha Mahalakshmi.
“Along with trends, we have to change,” Srivani, who is a big believer of fusion covers has said. “Otherwise we will stay there only.”
Concerned that a younger generation is moving away from classical music concerts, Srivani shifted to producing renditions of popular film music as well. “[My husband said] you simplify the veena,” she said in an interview. “Whatever people will enjoy, whatever people will know, you play that only.”
Used in both Carnatic music and Hindustani classical music – as the rudra veena – the instrument has seven strings strung over twenty-four fixed frets and is played sitting cross-legged.