Three musicians have come together to start Shabda, an online hub on classical arts.

During Chennai's music season in December, it's not just the stages that are the hub of activity. The sabha canteens add their own flavour to the season with a lot of meeting, eating and time passing taking place there. Any rasika will stand testimony this fact.

During one such “meeting” at the Music Academy canteen in Chennai, the musician trio T.M. Krishna, R.K. Shriramkumar and H.K. Venkatram had a lot to discuss, especially about the unavailability of genuine information on classical arts on the Internet. This prompted them to think of ways to create “intellectual capital” and make them available to anybody who seeks it.

Inspired by TEDx (, the trio came up with Shabda, a concept that works along the lines of the former — an event is organised whereby experts are invited to talk briefly on specific themes and the video is then uploaded on the site. Those interested need to just click on the videos to hear it from the experts directly without the misinterpretations and question of credibility of the source.

Processed info

“Google any word and you are sure to get a 1,000 hits. But you do not know the source of the info — who, when and why it was uploaded,” explains T.M. Krishna. “The Internet has made access to information easier, but it also has a default error; there is no processing of the information available in it.” These, he says, are what prompted them to pursue the idea of Shabda.

The first session of Shabda was held on March 19, featuring experts of classical arts — Bharatanatyam dancers Bragha Bassell and Lakshmi Vishvanathan, architect C. Jayachandran, carnatic vocalists R. Vedavalli and V.V. Subramanyam, and percussionist Karaikudi Mani.

The topics were as varied as the mix of the speakers themselves: music in Bharatanatyam, interpreting sangita bhava on the violin, abhinaya in a padam, the aesthetics of tisram, architecture and choreography and handling of raga atana.


Even though the themes are extremely focused, in terms of thought process they can be applied to other subjects as well in a larger context.

Apart from the depth and niche-ness of the topics that require the speakers to do some homework, the time factor adds to their effort.

The 20-minute time limit warrants speakers to “cut the crap and get to the point directly,” as Venkatram blandly puts it. Hence the credit of the success of the first session largely goes to the speakers who managed to do just that and very well too.

Choosing speakers who understand the importance of such an endeavour and understand that it can be achieved in such short time frame is one of the challenges, they feel. Also adding to that would be financial sustainability, since this is a complete not-for-profit initiative. “All three of us are professional musicians and travel a lot for shows. So for us to meet up and coordinate will also be a challenge,” says Shriramkumar.

But these are challenges they are willing to overcome for the purpose of making Shabda an online hub of information on classical arts.

The trio is open to sharing resources and ideas to those who want to organise similar sessions in other cities.

“Shabda has to move beyond the three of us. We want it to belong to the art community that will help sustain its efforts continually.”

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012