Search This Blog

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ramblings of 2013 Marghazi festival and how to make it more pleasant

Ramblings of 2013 Marghazi festival and how to make it more pleasant

As a great fan of classical Carnatic music and classical dances and for over at least a few decades I would like to place on record certain obvious trends that I am observing of late without any bias so that all those involved in this huge Marghazhi Music and Natyam festival can bring about the necessary modifications to make it more appealing to more number of people and make it sustainable in the long run. It is not complaints about usual audiences’ lack of discipline, poor acoustics etc but things much more serious and bound to create lot of debates.

Positive trends

I am happy about certain very positive trends which are contributing to the growth of classical music and dance

1] Increased number of sabhas and more and more number of young and enthusiastic performers. I was given to understand that between 16th Dec and 15th Jan almost 4000 programs took place and 2000 artists participated.

2] More and more NRIs evincing very keen interest and active participation as evolved and sincere performers, avid Rasikas and as organizers too.

Negative trends

1] Classical music’s greatest patrons are the Rasikas and the turnout of Rasikas is so pathetic in some places that it would gradually discourage the organizers as well as the artists.

A] The reasons could be many like transport problems,

B] Too many programs happening simultaneously,

C] As observed by Sri. Narayana Vishwanath “The overall number of Rasikas seems to be less compared to the performers.” On a rough estimate as I was hopping from sabha to sabha and I am meeting almost the same number of 5000 plus rasikas spread over many sabhas for the past few years and all in the average age group of 50 with predominant many above 50s like me. So there is a clear mismatch of demand and supply.

D] The large number of children learning vocal, instruments and classical dances themselves do not turn up for programs because the parents themselves do not actively attend these concerts [or even make them listen to such music at home because the programs shown on TV channels are not the same {as the NRIs do not have this problem of distraction of other TV channels, they seem to be more focused- I am not blaming any TV channel I am blaming the parents attitude}]

2] Some people seeking cheap popularity or having a skewed thinking and attitude of evaluating everything with imported and irrelevant socio political theories and resorting to do the same to classical music or Natyam can be a great source of distraction and deliberate sources to mislead young avid rasikas and learners by confusing them with logical fallacies.[ I had an  interesting read on this in the following link  I would like to quote the essence of the article in the link “Everything that has ever existed and continue to exist or anything that has happened or continue to happen quiet often has its own inherent logic, principle, purpose, value, strength etc. In addition they are or act as some pieces to fit into the jigsaw puzzle of life.

These two important factors inherent logic and being part of the jigsaw puzzle of life are attributes of everything starting from the various forms and names of Almighty to all things in the universes.  

Unfortunately the whole or complete picture of life is yet unknown to many of us [if we are honest and humble enough to accept] but not unknowable. This unknown mystery is so because of various factors of which the two most glaring are our chronologically limited mortal body frame and the limited abilities and perceptions of our mental frame and this prevents us from simultaneously perceiving anything at both the micro as well as macro level”]

Here I am also tempted to quote from a great book ‘Becoming Indian’ by Pavan K. Varma [1]

3] Inevitable good and welcome impact of certain evolutionary trends, which are in a way good for the art but not so good for concert attendance, like again as Sri. Narayana Vishwanath points out could be due to “simultaneous telecasting, webcasting during December- January season of classical programs” and a huge library of reference concert available on the net etc. [This happens even in cricket test matches where only some two thousand spectators turn up in a stadium meant for 80 thousand people whereas the same grows to  one crore people for IPL -T20’s] so the reason is not the the fault of audience alone but could be that of the performers, format, auditorium etc

4] Sabhas have become like , especially the big and established ones, BCCI wherein the artists are at the mercy of the Sabha organizers and they do not get slots based on their merit [though I am aware that this is a very relative and difficult to regularize]

Certain possible course corrections

Especially when I touched upon T20 games certain things crossed my mind and they are not necessarily in order of priority nor meant to cast aspersions on any individual singer or organization.

1] Top musicians and established music sabhas with their own real estate space must conduct on weekly or at least monthly basis music appreciation workshops which could be telecast, webcast, floated on You Tube etc à la Ted talks so that more and more people learn about ragas and the depth and inherent potential of classical music.

2] Carnatic classical music songs and renderings because of their most unique and unparalleled excellent raga structures and existence of exquisite and enjoyable compositions etc  are enjoyable when rendered in any instrument and even with not so great voice but that does not mean that those who have horrible voice and those whose voices have become too strained due to years and years of excessive singing [ after all vocal cord is also an organ susceptible for an expiry date for singing] should continue to perform without retiring. It would be better that they gracefully retire like Sunil Gavaskar while still in form and demand and get a good farewell party [from shishyas, sabhas and rasikas] rather than an unceremonious  good riddance party.

3] This leads me to other areas where a marriage is very necessary between classical music and good voice, voice culture, good acoustics etc.

4] I have found here that those who have managed to synergize, of course with some compromises here and there, both in terms of vidwath, good voice and attention to acoustics have been pleasant to listen to rather than those who had only vidwath with no voice, or those with excellent voice but with very little vidwath or those sabhas which conducted programs by great singers with very poor acoustics etc.

5] Only a few are born with a divine gift of all the important factors in great measure like a great DR.M.Balamurali Krishna, a GNB, a Madurai Mani Iyer, an M.S.Subbulakshmi , K.J.Yesudoss etc .
Most of the rest of other great stalwarts had to work hard on some of the factors.

6] Herein, I observed many people who sing for Bharatha Natyam, Mohini Atam programs had better voice than many of the leading vocalists.

7] Too much of exhibition of technicalities by both vocalists and instrument players compromising or at the cost of pleasant rendering killed the music as well as musicians’ voices.

8] It would also be nice for many smaller sabhas to sit together and synergize their resources, manpower , contacts etc and resort to cost cutting on real estate space rent and instead pay the artists better.

9] Probably some 30 sabhas can get together and conduct 30 day program in different parts of the city or probably different parts of the state throughout the year with one day concert mela from morning till night in each town or district of  Tamilnadu with artists with good voice and instrument players too.


Finally let us all remember that Classical music and Natyams are not a few sabhas centric activities, nor are they a few artists centric nor a few media houses centric nor a few institutions centric.

They are massive universes where in all these are either significant or not so significant planets moving about either with or without life.

Vidwath= great knowledge about the subject and here it refers to music.

Rashika= follower of music

Sabha= Organizer of music and Natyam programs.

Natyam= a word preferred over dance because by definition ‘a complex form of creative expression, encompassing within it not only pure dance but theatre,mime,music,poetry and above all,Rasa’[ manifestation of psychological emotion and physical feelings]

Sishya= learner or disciple

[1] Page 141of ‘Becoming Indian’ by Pavan K. Varma
“When people are the subjects of their own culture, their creative expression has self –assuredness and spontaneity, so they create a unique and effective language of communication even when the grammar is imperfect. This is because the idiom is authentic. But when people become objects of a foreign culture, a huge transformation takes place. Suddenly, a creative work is judged not for its intrinsic value, or for the heritage it is sourced from or is a part of, but for the degree to which it is comprehensible and conforms to the outsider’s culture. The process is all the more mutilating if the outsider belongs to the dominant political or military power of the time [or a putrefied political ideology-italics mine], and there is necessary prejudice, condescension and prurience in his gaze. When this happens, spontaneity reduces itself to self –conscious mediocrity; creativity seeks to qualify itself [to some irrelevant yard stick]; authenticity gives way to imitation; self –assurance is replaced by denial. An entire culture attempts to reinterpret itself in terms that will somehow win the dominant outsider’s approval. The ‘objectified’ people then thrive only as exotica; their historic role becomes that of the observed; everything external about them –and nothing of intrinsic value-is collated, classified and investigated. They finally end up as caricatures, divorced from their own cultural milieu and perpetually alien-in spite of their best efforts at emulation-to that of the outsider.” [What is more pathetic is the hitherto insiders getting converted into outsiders causing chaos]

Please note: All things written in this quote in brackets and in italics are mine.

No comments: