Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna writes about his experience at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest and what could make the festival bigger and better in the years to come

: Over the last five years, The Hindu Friday Review November Fest has become one of the most awaited festivals in the cultural calendar of Chennai. Madras, now Chennai, has always been one of the most artistically supportive and welcoming cities in India. We may not have the razzmatazz, or the screaming fans of many other cities but we have always been open to new music and performances, and have been one of the most sensitive, knowledgeable audiences in the country.

In spite of this, it was surprising that for long we did not have a festival that showcased performing arts from various parts of India, the world, and experimental musical presentations. This is exactly what the November Fest has done. It is of course not surprising that the only newspaper in this country that gives importance to the arts came up with a festival of this nature. It is an outstanding precursor to the classical music and dance festival of December giving Chennai a festival of varied musical forms and thought in November. Be it classical, folk, film or experimental, it have always given us a surprise. It’s fabulous that today The November Fest has established itself as a festival with varied content and great presentation.

Personally for me it was a pleasure to perform in 2008 along with my good friend Bombay Jayashri. It was wonderful to present a concert intact in the content that makes our music Carnatic classical yet give it a twist in its presentation. The festival made us look for a new presentation for Carnatic music within its framework and we were very happy that we did the same. As an artiste it was a pleasure to work with everybody at The Hindu and everything that evening was absolutely perfect.

In spite of all the wonderful aspects of the festival I still think there are a few areas where the festival needs to really move forward. Each time we hear the word “eclectic” when we are introduced to the November Fest. While it has a value of diversity and bandwidth, it also causes a festival to lose focus. In my opinion, an art festival of this nature needs a curator. To curate a festival is much like a museum, it’s not a mere bunch of artifacts that are put together but a thought process on the basis of which the museum is changed and themes are presented. Similarly, this festival needs a thread, a connect, on the basis of which the concerts are showcased. This refers less to a “theme” and more “a flow”.

How does this help?

This gives the festival a thought process. It is not about putting together diverse performances that will please different age groups and audiences. It’s a step further. It is about creating a story from the festival that will still feature diverse performances that will reach diverse groups. Every year will be a different story. This will give the festival a far larger presence and a more serious role as a music festival. This may involve having a panel of artistes to recommend concerts and an independent curator. Unless this is done, the festival would continue to be an eclectic one when it can actually be much, much more.

Similarly I would love to see the presentation of the festival (visually) a little less corporate. As a Chennai resident it will be great to see less of vinyl and light-play and more of artistic content in the visual presentation of the concerts.

This year I am very happy to see that the festival is moving to other cities and I hope very soon this festival will be a national phenomenon. Let us make it one!

T.M. Krishna is a resident of Chennai and is a Carnatic musician.

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