Several Hats that a musician wears

My recent holiday in Chennai was quite hectic. Apart from some personal work,I took the opportunity to listen to some lively music concerts,which are part of the ongoing Annual Music Festival. I listened to concerts by top class artists like Sanjay Subramanyam,Sikkil Gurucharan,TM Krishna,Nityasri and TV Sankaranarayanan.
The way carnatic music is structured,there is plenty of scope for innovation – be it in rendering a song(kriti),kalpana swaram(imagination based swara rendering for every kirtana),rag alapana etc. Every musician brings his own distinctive flavour to a concert. Big musicians are invariably under tremendous pressure during the December music season as they are expected to come up with something very new and special.

As I look back at the concerts and the musicians,I am intrigued by one question – that is, just when or how does a famous musician transform into a Maestro? I posed this question to a friend of mine. We had a good discussion;however,obviously,there is no simple answer to this.

The career of a musician is pretty much similar to that of a CEO of a professionally managed company. A successful musician is not merely good at music. Consider the variety of roles he has to play in order to become famous and remain on top. First and foremost, he has to ensure that high quality music is dished out in each and every concert without fail. This is akin to the role of a Quality assurance manager in a company. In this role,he has to maintain a good voice culture,make a good selection of songs,plan out his concert properly in terms of structure and sequence of rendering etc. The second role which is equally important is that he or she has to necessarily come up with some innovation during a music festival every year. It is expected of them to innovate on the way in which a raga is rendered or come up with a new tune for an old song or whatever. This is like an R&D function in a corporate setting.

Next,they have to develop rapport very quickly with the accompanying artists like violonists,mridangam or thabla players by constantly encouraging them during the entire concert. After all, entire show is a team effort and the musician has to lead by inspiring his team members continuously so that they will give out their best. This role is that of a Human resource manager in a company. In a similar manner,the musician has to keep an eye on the audience to feel their pulse and perform according to their taste and expectations. This sounds like ‘customer focus’ in a corporate setup.

In addition to all this the musician has to plan out his career in such a manner that it is self sustaining. In other words he should not burn himself out. He should have a vision of the future and plan accordingly. And most importantly he also should know how to promote or market himself to various Sabhas, organizers and sponsors etc.

Thus a for a musician to transform into a maestro,I guess he has to be adept at wearing several hats at different times. Does the familiar cliche ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’ apply to a musician? No way. He has to be a ‘Jack of all trades,no doubt, but most certainly a master of at least one’. Imagine the kind of discipline needed to achieve this!

The world of Carnatic music has produced several maestros – Veena maestro Balachander,Flute maestro Mali, Choudaiah,Dwaram,Lalgudi(among Violin maestros),among vocalists GNB to name just one among several.

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Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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