Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is it the mad season?

In the late eighties the Sruti magazine began a campaign labeling the music season in madras as the "Mad Mad Mad Season." Till this day it continues to view the music season as an exercise in madness with the volume of concerts increasing so much without a corresponding increase in rasikas. How mad is the music season. Aren't people looking forward to it so much that it is not as mad as it has been made out to be? Here is my personal take on the same. For years we have seen the steady increase in the number of organisations and sabhas promoting music and having festivals during the month of December. We musicians have also seen the increase in the number of concerts that we perform in December. While the mainstream media as well as rasikas debate about the problems the season throws up I would just look at the positive side of things in this post.

1. It is the singular most looked forward to event in the carnatic music world. Much like a world cup that is held once in 4 years or the Wimbledon championships that happen every year in June, December is very very significant.

2. An event of this magnitude can never grow to its current proportions if there wasn't support from the public. This really means that the people have spoken! They throng the concert halls and create the atmosphere that we have all experienced and look forward to every year. Most of the major sabhas especially during the period of 20th - 31st December do draw huge crowds for the premier performances. Yes there are a lot of other concerts that do not get a crowd but so what. When I first sang in 1987 in Kalarasna I had a record audience of 21! But then 21 people brought in 81 in 1988 and we did not even have our photographs printed on the newspaper back then. Newspaper reviews in the Hindu for instance did not carry photographs of carnatic musicians till the early nineties. The power of the 'word of mouth' is such that a good performance will immediately create attention around the city.

3. Season is also financially very successful. Sponsorship money comes in. Corporates are looking to cash in on the publicity that is generated at a fraction of the cost they would have to incur for a single 20-20 game. Musicians also benefit with more concerts and hence more money, so I am not complaining there.

4. Media and its obsession to sensationalise everything is a big plus especially for the 'young and upcoming' as well as the 'old and downgoing' crop. A number of younger musicians can just have their say, get themselves written about and have their pictures plastered hoping that it will help accelerate their success. While their performance on stage will be the final factor to decide, this will definitely give them a big push initially that needs to be capitalised. On the other side of things there are a number of fading seniors who can again go to the media with stories of nostalgia, decry the current state of music and say that they still have something to offer and try and revive a failing career.

5. Chennai traffic can be a nightmare. The once famous internal bus system is not exactly preferred the way it used to be especially for attending concerts. Urbanisation and extended suburbs are making it difficult for rasikas to make the trips to Mylapore and T Nagar every day during the season. This where the localised sabhas have got into the act seizing an opportunity to recreate the season magic in their own locality. Tiruvanmiyur, Villivakkam, anna Nagar, Nanganallur, Chrompet, KK Nagar have all managed to draw their own crowds for concerts.

6. Television, especially Jaya TV with its Margazhi Utsavam is also hyping up the season in a big away. All the news channels are scouring the sabhas to get a 'byte' from musicians or rasikas. Internet sites and blogs are flooding the web with information. More and more artists are joining the blogging bandwagon to 'connect' with the rasikas. People use cell phones and mp3 recorders to save and upload stuff like pictures, audio and video.

All this points to a great music season all round. Even as Mumbai slowly picks itself up yet again after the innumerable attacks on its flourishing life, we in more sober Chennai hope the rains will stop soon so that we can welcome our own special music season! Here's to another great music season!