If you find someone closely resembling an eskimo in the Margazhi season you know you have met a Margazhi vocalist

Any guesses how you spot a singer in Chennai in the month of December? Rather simple. If you find someone dressed in a sweater or sporting a jacket, ears plugged with cotton wool, and a scarf around the neck to complete the picture, in short, an eskimo look-alike, you know you have met a Margazhi vocalist.

From the singer's perspective, the Margazhi Season is a challenging phase. Musicians have to battle the misty mornings juxtaposed with the humidity through the day. The dust is an added factor that irritates the singer's voice continuously.

Though health is a concern for all musicians during ‘winter' in Chennai, the voice, especially, is an extremely sensitive instrument that deserves great care. And truly, singing is a humbling experience, in that, you may sound like an angel one moment and a drowning duck, the next. A singer with a non-cooperative voice and ill-health has almost no room to exhibit his creativity on stage. Vocalists are victims of weather conditions as well as rasikas' criticisms.

At the start of the season, if a singer is found clearing his throat a few times during his concert — perhaps due to sheer anxiety — he gets a ready tag: “Not in good form this Season!” Pop star Brian McKnight believes that staying in good physical health would ensure normal breathing, thereby ensuring a well-rounded performance. A musician not only has the responsibility of performing well but also needs to be aware of having to maintain good health with a holistic approach.

With the increasing number of concerts a singer performs these days, he is more vulnerable to being affected by the dust, cold and the dryness in the air-conditioned auditoria (Singers, if you have a concert in the morning, make sure you go to the hall after the carpets are dusted and the dais cleaned!). These factors eventually dry the throat out making it sound strained and cause pain. While there are several physical exercises that help relax the throat muscles and the larynx, intake of water and the type of food consumed on the day of the concert could make a lot of positive difference.

Some suggestions to keep the vocal chords in good shape:

Drink a glass of water mixed with honey and lime in the mornings and an hour before the concert

Drink plenty of water maintained at room temperature during the concert

Hum the notes softly as you start practising for the day and do akaara sadhakam coupled with “Om” chanting

Take long, relaxed breaths as and when possible

Take an energy bar/1 apple/2 idlis/1 chapati an hour before the concert

Maintain erect posture while sitting cross legged

Avoid highly spicy or acidic foods as acid reflux can cause irreparable damage to the throat

Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs as they may cure the cold but cause sinus problems as a side effect

(The author is a vocalist and founder-director of 'Carnatica'.)