Chennai Music Season, December 2015 – My Review

A Mumbaiite asked me how was the music season in Chennai. I said: It depends on whether you are a bhojana priyan(lover of food) or a pattu priyan(lover of music). The season has something to offer to both. However, since I’m both a bhojana priyan & a music priyan, it was a double delight for me!

I must have attended a couple of dozen concerts during my 10-day holiday in Chennai. Concerts were held in the morning, mid-afternoon, early in the evening and late in the evening. And multiply this by the number of main sabhas(halls)which is roughly about twelve and the number of concerts per day is about 50. Multiply this by 15 (days) and one arrives at a staggering figure of 600 concerts in the music season. In terms of numbers and quality of music, I would say this is unparalleled!

As I said, I must have attended about 25 concerts in all in the space of just 10days. Like several Chennaites I also mastered the technique of hopping from sabha to sabha and canteen to canteen. Here is a rundown on the concerts that I attended:

Emotions recollected in tranquility is poetry, according to the poet William Wordsworth. I might add concerts, songs and ragas recollected in tranquility after a hectic music festival is a measure of the richness of one’s experience. And I will use the same criterion to rank concerts that I attended. By this criterion, my first rank goes straight to Sanjay Subramanian. His Sankarabharanam and Kanada(Sukhi evvaru) are still ringing in my ears. His leisurely kalpana swaras in madhyama kalam in kanada was a meditative experience as it brilliantly brought out all the dimensions of this beautiful raga. He specializes in long karvais in tara (upper) shadjam which has the brilliant effect of taking the listener deep into the mood of the raga.

My second rank is for a surprise performance by the great veteran TV Sankaranarayanan, TVS. It was a morning concert at Music academy. I have been a great fan of TVS. However, I was under the mistaken impression that his advancing age could make it difficult for him to show his musical genius. On the stage, he looked very fragile and lacking in stamina for a big concert. But his age-defying performance was a pleasant surprise for me. The main Raga was Sankarabharanam. As he started the alap, I slowly got absorbed into the mood of the raga. He went into higher and higher pitches and I closed my eyes to focus and enjoy the raga in its fullness. I was secretly hoping he would touch the highest possible octave and do sancharam. And to my surprise he not only touched the highest pitch but also did a splendid sancharam. That is the moment to savour in any musical performance when there is complete fusion between the music and the listener. The ability to impart that experience to a discerning listener is the measure of a musician’s greatness. According to me, a musician’s brilliance is measured by how often, during a concert, he takes you to levels where the singer, the listener and the music become one. By this test, TVS is on par with Sanjay.

The young flautist Shashank’s concert at Music Academy takes the third place. His brilliant performance always leaves one in raptures. His presentation of the raga Saveri was excellent.
Among the upcoming artists who impressed me the most are: Mahathi and Ashwath Narayan whose Keeravani raga and famous Tyagaraja composition Kaligiyunte kada was superb.
My disappointments are the much hyped Bharat Sundar and Akkarai sisters.
Rajesh Vaidya’s veena was not really a disappointment since I did not expect much from him anyway. If artists like Rajesh Vaidya attract crowds, it only means that there is still a lot of demand for cheap entertainment!

One cannot claim to have attended music concerts without mentioning highly talented Abhishek Raghuram. I attended his concert at Vani Mahal. I was about to pack off half way through the concert. Amazingly, though, he made a complete turnaround in the second half. Once he touched his peak form he never looked back. He excelled in all departments of music – alap, kirtanais with niraval and imaginative kalpana swaras.

And finally a word about canteens. If I were to rank the canteens, I would place Music academy canteen at No.1 followed by Naradagana sabha and then Vani Mahal. At Vani mahal canteen I tried a new dosa item called Podi dosa. Regular Dosa is topped with different spicy powders made from the leaves of Podina, kariveppalai etc. It was quite good.

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Published in: on January 7, 2016 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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