Catch a kutcheri on Youtube. Listen to live comments from a concert on your smart phone. Or get a peek into your favourite artiste’s living room and watch them rehearse for a concert. Lakshmi Krupa meets some social media-savvy Carnatic musicians who have married technology with tradition to meet the demands of today’s rasika
Ranjani – Gayatri
(Facebook page Ranjani-Gayatri: Ra Ga)
Last Margazhi, sisters Ranjani-Gayatri, after a lot of requests from fans and on the advice of a friend, said goodbye to their ‘complicated’ Facebook profile and started a brand new ‘Fan’ page. “We aren’t exactly the most tech-savvy Carnatic musicians, but our old page had become inaccessible as it was a profile page and we added fans as friends and when we tried logging in one day, it asked us to identify our ‘friends’ so we could log in. We were clueless,” laughs Ranjani. “Last December, we finally decided to get a Fan page, and I must say the response has been tremendous, almost unexpected!” Gayatri chips in. “There’s a certain distance when we perform on stage, and on our FB page we are trying to collapse that wall. It’s a way to connect with the fans in a more intimate setting where they get to know us and our music better,” she says. Things that the sisters usually take for granted, Gayatri explains, such as a practice session, are of great interest to an avid fan or a learner. “We recorded a video, a sort of dialogue in ragas between the two of us and it has seen hundreds of shares,” Gayatri says. The sisters use the page to talk about their thoughts on music, share snippets and videos and update fans on their upcoming concerts.
A few years ago, T.M. Krishna gave up his personal Facebook page and now, he doesn’t even have a mobile phone. “It’s a choice I’ve made to stay in the present and not get caught in spending time online,” he says. But that doesn’t mean he is inaccessible to the world or his fans. In fact, Krishna’s social media presence bears an enviably professional demeanour — updated meticulously to include interviews, music and the various causes he lends his name to, so that fans can continue to access information about his concerts and thoughts on music and other aspects of life. Krishna laughs when it is pointed out that his website is rather edgy — dark contours, minimalist with little text and a lot of images, all quite imaginative. Sample this, the music section of his website page has a play button — which, when clicked on, reveals different sections of the website that is related to his music — reviews, photos, discography etc, and a small calendar when clicked on brings up his schedule. “I engage with fans on my Facebook ‘Fan’ page and answer if they have queries. Some of my students are also involved in keeping the pages up-to-date.” All three of his web profiles — website, Facebook and Twitter are updated on a regular basis with videos, links and concert schedules.
(Mobile app — Sanjay Music)
Sanjay Subrahmanyan, who speaks rarely, if at all, to the media is often found interacting with a lot of fans and cricket enthusiasts on Twitter. While on his blog, the ace musician shares his thoughts on ‘Carnatic music and anything else’, on his website you can access his albums. On his YouTube page, many videos of his performances are available. But Sanjay’s most interesting web offering comes in the form of an app called Sanjay Music, available free of cost on Apple as well as Android platforms. The app acts as a one-stop shop for all the information you need on the singer, such as his schedule and social media updates. One can also share pictures, videos and add real-time comments using the ‘Shout Outs’ feature.
Rithvik Raja understands that Carnatic musicians aren’t like pop stars of the West who can make money from cutting CDs and DVDs. This led him to the creation of his own YouTube page where he uploads concert videos. “Even before I came back home from a concert, I’d have mails waiting in my inbox with pictures and short videos from people who attended the concert,” Rithvik says. Instead of relying on someone else’s recording device, Rithvik decided to upload them himself. “I upload snippets from each concert so people can get a feel of the event besides learning about what I sang,” says the singer who has formally studied graphic design and audio engineering. There is a thin line between reaching out to an audience and indulging in self-promotion, and Rithvik understands this well. “If I had uploaded my videos three years ago when I was still finding my feet in the field, I am sure people would have seen it as promotion. But today, I guess it helps me reach out to more people. For instance, when I performed for the first time in the U.S., many told me they had already seen my performance on YouTube. Which is just as well, since, at the end of the day, as an artiste what I want is to reach people,” he avers.
Among the Gen-Next singers, the most regular and meticulous online updates come from Sandeep Narayan. Sandeep has a well-maintained list of all the songs he has ever performed — from his first kutcheri to the latest. An extension of this attention to detail can be seen on his blog, where the young performer posts a list of all the songs he performs in every kutcheri, the raga it is set in, the tala as well as the name of the composer. He also mentions the names of his accompanists, and during the last margazhi season, Sandeep posted anecdotes and his thoughts on every performance. Sandeep says, “I like to look through the list to ensure I don’t repeat a song at consecutive concerts or at the same sabha.” Also, after his kutcheri, many people would come up to him and ask which song came after what and who composed it, etc. “So I decided to put this information up on my blog.”