Highs and lows of Chennai December season
Compiled by Lalitha Venkat


Dec 30, 2006
Dance
Today my art takes me all over the globe, but performing during the season is something I cherish. State-of-the-art auditoria overseas cannot match the old world charm of the sabhas.
The calendar year for artistes is from season to season. And every year you grow as an artiste and learn to know the pulse of the audience better. When I look back, I realize how much I have matured as a performer, particularly in conceiving and executing a recital. A lot of thought goes into every aspect - choreography, music, costume and jewellery - to make the recitals reflect your artistic sensibilities.
(Priyadarshini Govind in 'My festival,' Music Season, The Hindu, Dec 19, 2006)
We think these mad, mad Madras festivals are becoming monotonous. The sabhas are innumerable, and with awards galore, the felicitation functions are becoming a farce.
(The Dhananjayans, in 'My festival,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 20, 2006)
The children these days are so pressured that they are not able to devote time to practice. I wouldn't say that they are not dedicated, but lack of time prevents them from concentrating only on dance.
The present day dancers have an advantage over senior dancers because they get more concert opportunities, the media coverage is more, and they can also update their knowledge by the lec-dems that are given by senior dancers. These days, they are also encouraged by awards and titles. Personally, I don't attach too much importance to awards. I am happy if I get it, but it is OK even if I don't. There is a greater joy in dance than in getting awards. For me, dance is spiritual.
To attract larger audience, I feel we must explain our gestures, so that the layman understands what we are doing. Where is the time? We are allotted a specific time and we have to finish our performance within that slot.
(Jayanthi Subramanian in 'Dance is a spiritual journey,' City Express, Dec 27, 2006)
People used to think that Bharatanatyam is about Rama, Lakshmana and religion. I am trying to prove that it does not belong to the Hindu religion alone.
I feel the entire sabha thing is a racket and I've had enough.
(G Narendra in 'Dancing Duo,' City Express, Dec 26, 2006)
Why is it that solo Bharatanatyam performances struggle to find a good crowd?
Solo Bharatanatyam performances used to be 'packed' and 'full house' till a few years ago. Even today, the main stream of professional dancers, perform to excellent packed houses. They take extra effort to prepare thematic presentations and compile together some very novel ideas. Since some of the famous dancers of the country perform only during the December season in Chennai, tickets are sold out. Yet there is a drop in audience for some solo performances. It is a problem that has to be addressed by the senior dancers themselves and they have to look into the pros and cons of the 'whys.'
(Sudha Raghunathan in 'Sudha replies,' City Express, Dec 15, 2006)
My grandmother Balasaraswati was totally dedicated to dance, but she had to face a lot of criticism. But that did not deter her from pursuing this great art form. It is important to know what you are doing is right. Then nothing else matters.
(Aniruddha Knight in 'Dance is nothing but visual music,' City Express, Dec 20, 2006)
It is one thing to dance to a good audience. It is quite another to dance to an auditorium full of dancers, each one of whom is a full blown critic.
(Rupa Srikanth in 'Brilliant synchronization,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 20, 2006)


Music
"When you come to a table with five others, you are an assortment. But make sure you take to the table your specialty and don't simply become part of that assortment," said Ustad Alla Rakha. The words left a big impact on son Ustad Zakir Hussain.
"I realized I didn't have to be a Western drummer, or a guitarist hamming away. All I had to be was just myself, a tabla player, and that's the specialty I brought to the table. I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. There are musicians in India, who are as good as I am, or probably better. As a tabla player I'm just as good as I was 20 years ago. The difference is that I learnt the language the West understood. It gave me opportunities and also allowed me the kind of exposure hailed by young musicians today. Therefore, even though there have been musicians of equal caliber, I've enjoyed that iconic status," he says modestly.
"When your audience realizes you too went to college like them, you too wear western clothes and go to Pizza Hut, it instills in them a sense of familiarity. With all these commonalities, they recognize a specialty in you that makes you different. And that's what has given me the identity of a global musician."
('The making of the Ustad' by Deepa Ganesh, The Hindu Metro Plus, Dec 20, 2006)
Those were the days when the rasikas were really serious about attending season concerts and it was not just a fad. The concert duration was longer. People stayed. On the contrary today durations have become shorter and the rasikas too do a lot of sabha hopping in the same evening. I miss the serious rasika.
(N Ramani in 'My festival,' Music Season, The Hindu, Dec 26, 2006)
In the current Marghazi music festival, we see that there are a lot of young artistes but not much of a crowd to watch or hear them. Where does the problem lie?
You can't blame the audience for that. If you really want to promote young talents, give them prime time slots rather than make them perform in the morning or afternoon when it's office time, when hardly anybody would turn up.
(Durga Jasraj in 'Art, artistes and an academy,' City Express, Dec 28, 2006)
The tenets of economics say that there should be a balance between supply and demand. About 100 years ago, the supply was insufficient to demand as concerts were far and few. Music was considered divine. Gradually, supply increased to an optimum level of being equal to demand. During that time, divinity of music was not spoken of but was brought to the mainstream of the common man. The situation has since developed to an unhealthy proportion where supply is far in excess of demand.
The number of concerts has increased to such an extent that there is ample scope for mediocrity. The remedy for this would be to reduce the number of concerts, thereby bringing quality control.
(T R Subramanian in 'Young musicians have sprung surprises,' City Express, Dec 23, 2006)
The audience is more demanding now. You can't 'manage' without competence. They won't accept it. I think this kind of audience inspires us through the year to do well, give of our best. Season concerts become benchmarks for us to live up to, until the next season comes round, when hopefully, we will set higher goals.
(P Unnikrishnan in 'My festival,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 27, 2006)
Though we know the value of this festival, we are beginning to wonder if this kind of excess and performance orientation is the only way of preserving and nurturing our music. With so many concerts during the season, how can any artiste do justice to every one of them? It's not as if any venue is less significant. Every audience is important.
Today, not only the top artistes but also youngsters give 8 to 10 performances. Are they equipped to do justice to their art? Besides, how can they listen to others if they are constantly performing? And if they don't make use of the season to listen to seniors, how are they going to improve their own music?
(Ranjani and Gayatri in 'My festival,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 29, 2006)
Today, the trend is changing. It is the number of concerts that matters. "How many are you performing this year?" they ask. The quality is lost. Whereas earlier, there were fewer sabhas and only the best got to perform and the stuff was always quantitatively high. What saddens me most is about the veena being pushed to the background by sabhas on the grounds that it is a chamber instrument and not fit for playing in large halls. Sabhas should remember that veena is not extinct and listening to it from accomplished artistes will prove to be a meditative experience.
Veenai E Gayatri in 'My festival,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 22, 2006)
Fusion should not become confusion. The artiste should know what he is doing and why. This is only possible if his foundation is rock solid and his ideas are rooted in tradition. The bottom line for meaningful fusion is discipline, responsibility and aesthetics.
(Tiruchi Sankaran in 'As the mridangam played jazz' by Lalithaa Krishnan, The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 22, 2006)
One moment you are in a sabha, alternately slapping your palm and the back of it on the thigh; and the next moment you are in a shopping mall or a hotel, where you are welcomed with "jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way." And back home, you've the latest film music - Kollywood or Bollywood - on TV. How much more music can you ask for?
(Biswanath Ghosh, 'Music for years or ears?' City Express, Dec 22, 2006)


Howlers
Mobile etiquette
The Hindu's music tabloid should carry do's and don'ts section with respect to mobile phones, with special emphasis on 'how to set your mobile in the silent mode.' Leave alone the audience, a young vocalist was seen talking on the cell during her performance.
- Shyamala Radhakrishnan ('Listener's post,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 26, 2006)
Too many hurdles
This singer on stage faced too many hurdles. First, the connecting chord of the sruti box was playing truant. Later, it was the paper on which the lyrics of the kriti was written, which flew away at the crucial moment and the singer could not recall the words in spite of the fact that it is a popular number. So it was the responsibility of the percussion artistes to fill the void with rhythm till the paper was retrieved and the singer could catch up with the rest of the song.
- G Swaminathan ('Music Matters,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 20, 2006)
Mini kutcheris?
It is considered auspicious to start programs with an invocation. And generally it is a short verse or a sloka. But not these days. The so-called prayer song is stretched with swaram, sangati and so on, the performer turning it into a mini-kutcheri, showcasing his/her talent. To cap it all, the confused audience ends up applauding the prayer song!
- G Swaminathan & V Balasubramanian ('Music Matters,' The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 15, 2006)
Aesthetics takes the back seat
Gone are the days of pretension, the days of keeping papers under the electronic sruti box. During the concert of the Hyderabad Brothers, Seshachari actually raised the paper to eye level and sang. However, he did so as if the song was well practiced.
- SVK in 'Aesthetics takes the back seat' (The Hindu, Music Season, Dec 15, 2006)