Its been a few weeks since we landed in the US. 14 concerts have been completed. We landed in Washington and immediately sang 4 concerts on the trot. With travel, jet lag etc etc it was tough for me and my accompanists Shri Nagai Muralidharan & Shri Neyveli Venkatesh. Some of the members of the audience came up to me and asked if it was not a big strain to travel and sing like this. I just say that is my job and I jolly well accept it. After all if I had taken up the offer to join Citibank after I finished my CA I would have been slogging my butt out for 10-12 hours a day throughout the year. What we go through is typical of the lifestyle that most performers have.
One of the big pluses in a concert tour of the US is the frequency of the concerts and the work that we have to put in continuously. Also the concert time space in which we operate is much more relaxed and it gives us the freedom to experiment and play with so many different facets of the music. Secondly when I look back on the different tours that I have made my mind still goes back to the first tour in 1995. This really was a sort of coming of age tour for me. I gave close to 25+ concerts all in excess of 3 hours. For an upcoming musician who had been used 2+ hours of singing concerts in India this was a significant step up. You start setting small challenges to yourself. No repetition of songs until the RTP, no repetition of RTP ragams etc etc. This then makes you dig into your repertoire and start singing songs that you normally were not singing in concerts back home. Again when coming up with song lists back then there was the additional challenge to balance between the familiar and unfamiliar songs. Back then there was also this big discussion forum on the usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.classical and posts would come up giving song lists details etc. Atleast the statistical value of song lists helped in keeping up the pressure of not repeating songs more than anything else.
The times when the bulletin boards in Sangeetham were active, there was frequent updates of song lists and multiple posts discussing the value of the concert just based on reading this. For instance the presence of Trinity compositions or Tamizh compositions brought in different reactions immediately. Back in the pre internet days, when we went around attending concerts during the music season and elsewhere a song list was never considered important. Afterall we never noted down all the songs. We only remembered what stood out in a concert. Sometimes it was the main korvai, or a simple sangati in a ragamalika viruttam, or a gap being filled up by the violinist during a neraval phase or just a smile by the main artiste at a front ranking artiste seated in the first row after singing a familiar phrase with a secret history behind it.
Sometimes when I see internet reports of concerts and reactions and people emailing me or calling me to discuss the same I just say "Are you listening to the concert or to the song list???"
More coming up