December Music Festival – A Month that separates the Men from the Boys!

It’s the time of the year when the men are separated from the boys. Shall we say the ” The Moving Month” for the upcoming carnatic musicians. In Golf, Saturday is called the ‘moving day’, which signifies a day on which men of calibre move up the ladder and are separated from the lesser mortals. It is pretty much the same in the Music Season in Chennai. Several young artists are given their first chance during the month-long music festival in December and only a small percentage of them prove their mettle and move up the ladder in the following year. One can make out who are all moving up the ladder from the time slots allotted to each of them in the following year. From 12am slot they are supposed to move up to 2pm and finally to 4pm or 7pm, which are supposed to be the prime time slots.

This year the people who moved up the time slot are Kunnakudi Balamurali krishna and a few others. Next year it could be Sandeep Narayan or Bharat Sundar, who topped as the carnatic music idol in 2010. A few years back Abhishek Raghuram and Sikkil Gurucharan made it into the prime time slots. This progression of each artist is speculated upon and keenly watched by the music lovers every year.

What are the other highlights for this year’s festival based on my limited experience? Well, Bharat Sundar’s concert was certainly the most promising among the youngsters. Ravi kiran’s chitra veena in Music academy proved what it takes to make a concert  successful. The Morsing and Ghatam players , I thought , got a raw deal by the ‘sound’ quality managers. In fact Ghatam was not audible at all. It seemed to demoralize the Ghatam player till the end. The concert picked up in intensity and quality only towards the end. RTP(Ragam,/ Thanam/Pallavi) in Natakurangi was thoroughly enjoyable. The rest of the concert was forgettable.

Today(24/12) I went to Mylapore Fine arts for Bombay Jayasree’s concert but was disappointed to find tickets were sold out. I didn’t want to get back empty-handed. So I decided to gamble and went for an unplanned concert in Music academy by one Renganatha Sarma. I didn’t go with any expectations since the artist was a complete stranger to me. I was just banking on the reputation of Music Academy. To my pleasant surprise, however, it  turned out to be an exceptionally great experience. I believe he was a disciple of Semmangudi. His rendering was down to earth with no showmaship. He rendered most of the songs in Madhyama kaala with blemishless sruti and a sense of rythm. Bhairavi raaga and the song Kamalamba was the main piece. RTP was in Ragamalika – raagam & pallavi both were rendered in ragamalika style. Ramapriya, shanmukhapriya & sangita rasika priya were chosen as the ragas, all closely related.

Lecture demonstration by veteran musicologist SR Janakiraman(SRJ) was another great experience. His experimentation and innovation in raga singing in swaras was very impressive, as illustrated with Ragas Hamsadhwani, Bhairavi and Hamsanandini. This could pave the way for educating the listeners about Ragas and their structure . SRJ’s main theme is that swaras are after all the life of any raga and hence the new experiment! It is worth emulating by other musicians.

The  performance by Sikkil Gurucharan at Parthasaradhi Sabha on 25/12 was good. Here is a case of Veteram Mridagam artist Umayalpuram Sivaram inspiring the other artists with his energetic performance. His very presence was enough to motivate the main artist and it really enhanced the   quality of performance. Only violinist’s performance was below par. This shows how a veteran player can totally transform a concert.

Is the conduct of Chennai music lovers ideal? Far from it! I found there are 3 different forms of distractions in all concerts in Chennai. One is the ubiquitous cell phones. Many keep it in silence mode, but refuse to ignore the phone when there is a call and try to speak in hush tones. This is enough to disturb others. If there is one place where Cell phones have to be banned, I would say, it is a concert Hall.

Second type of disturbance is from people who keep humming along with the artist (“pin pattu’). This is really bad and they are difficult to stop. One guy in fact claimed that humming enhanced his listening pleasure. Unfortunately I found that humming is also infectious as their neighbours also sometimes start doing the same.

The third type of distraction is rather subtle and the most difficult to stop. How will you stop a guy who is constantly messing up with the beats ( ” Tappu Talam”). Music is predominantly ryhthm based besides sruti & melody. One can easily get distracted by a guy who is sitting next to you and constantly messing with ‘Talam’!

I am yet to attend performances of other big artists- Sanjay, Sudha, Abhishek, Bombay Jayashree etal. I am hoping to get a chance during the next one week.

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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