Rare tracks, archives, ever-popular songs and renderings by contemporary classical singers have all found their places on CD racks at the sabhas.
Margazhi is a magical time. Music lovers pull out all the stops to get the most out of their experience, by preparing precise timetables for concerts and meticulously planning their transport, or travelling from elsewhere in the country or overseas and setting up base in New Woodlands hotel that's within walking distance of two major sabhas. It's also a time for indulgence and music companies see a huge spike in album sales. Even a Monday afternoon is busy at AVM Sound Zone in Sankara Hall. People stand in the aisles and scan the familiar faces on the shelves, looking for an elusive collection or a new release from an old favourite. “It's the season,” says M. Natarajan, who handles sales at Saraswathi Stores, Sankara Hall's Carnatic music wing. The store sees a steady stream of people, NRIs included. Many walk down from Narada Gana Sabha or Music Academy and make impulsive purchases that double up as souvenirs if they're departing right after the festival. Usha Seetharam, Marketing Manager - South, Saregama, says that the surge in sales in so high that major releases are timed to coincide with the event and with deals and discounts being lined up as well. “Connoisseurs of music don't wait for a specific time. But the opportunity to buy is more, as collections are available at sabhas. Also, people are influenced by the music around them and this induces an interest in buying,” she says. This year, Saregama is unveiling a DVD of Visakha Hari's Srinivasa Kalyanam.
At the Music Academy, Kumaran who manages the Swati Soft Solutions stall is surrounded by priceless works of art. They are archives of legendary concerts that would have been lost to the present generation had music companies not taken the initiative to digitise the recordings. Kumaran is particularly proud of one such CD – “1962”, he says, referring to a half-century-old recording digitised and wrapped in a glossy case. “GNB (G.N. Balasubramaniam) had performed at a wedding in Kallidaikurichi. His rendition of Todi on this occasion is legendary.” “They are treasures. They fly off the shelves.”
K.S. Sudhakar, partner of Swati Soft Solutions says that one of his organisation's primary goals is to help people appreciate and understand music. “There are pieces rendered by the composers themselves, like Lalgudi Jayaraman and Chitravina Ravikiran,” he says, adding that if a person is looking for the correct version of such a song, they will now have access to the original. The albums also have commentaries for the benefit of amateurs. Sudhakar reveals that as much as 30% of the company's annual sales take place during this month. While that is reason for cheer, he is concerned about the impact of piracy on the art form. His website www.kalakendra.com has a royalty agreement with artistes and allows visitors to pay for downloads.
Music is omnipresent at this time of year, and it's therefore not surprising when almost every starry-eyed listener turns into a zealous shopper when the curtains come down.