Carnatic music lovers can now click on Sangeethapriya to listen to the kutcheris of their favourite vidwans

Every Margazhi music season enthusiasts busy themselves planning for the event and getting their excel sheets prepared with dates and venues and where to go when. And then there are those who want to be there nodding their heads and keeping thaalam to the music but instead have meetings, official tours or other events to attend. So what do you do? Logging onto sangeethapriya.org may answer your question. This portal is your boombox/window to the largest collection of live Carnatic concert recordings available online. In 2004, Srinivasan Rajagopalan, a bio-medical instrumentation specialist based out of the United States, started this website by uploading his entire music collection on it and then invited people to do the same. The idea behind the initiative was to allow music lovers to share their music instead of just locking up their old tapes and records in lofts and almirahs.

“There are a few other websites that give users access to music but the USP of our site is that we don't upload any commercial albums. It is a free to all site. It has no advertisements and it does not generate any revenue. We just require people to have a Yahoo or Gmail id to log in and download music,” says Sridharan Sankaran, a software professional with TCS, who runs the site from here. It is primarily for Indian classical music. Though a large portion of the content is Carnatic music, Hindustani, jugalbandhi, devotional music and lecture demonstrations are also available.

Huge collection

In its seventh year now sangeethapriya has the works of around 1,188 main artistes which amounts to 6,000 plus full length concert recordings. “You get a wide variety across decades. The oldest recording is that of Mysore Vasudevachar from the 1950s,” smiles Sridharan. Not just audio there are a few videos available too. For those of you who have only heard some of the maestros but haven't gotten an opportunity to watch them, here's your chance. Sangeethapriya archives also have documentaries of legends such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and G.N. Balasubramaniam. “But we encourage audio uploads only because videos take up a lot of space. Currently, we have about 700 GB of content on the whole,” he adds.

The reach of the website spans across continents and has music aficionados even from Ghana and Angola to Christchurch and Perth logging in to download music. So how does something of this magnitude manage without revenue? “We manage purely through voluntary donations. There is a ‘donate' button for people who wish to contribute to this portal for music lovers,” informs Sridharan.

The discussion groups have nearly 7,000 members who also upload recordings. With so many files being shared it becomes difficult to monitor what has been uploaded. The members have been briefed about the policies but in spite of that there have been instances of musicians being upset over what has been put up on the website. “The site is hosted in the U.S and conforms to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to which, if the users of our website upload a content which is objected to by the legitimate copyright owner of the content, the administrators promptly delete the content. In fact there are a few artistes who have told us not to put up their works and we respect that,” informs Sridharan. But Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna feels, “Why should it reach that stage? Why should an artiste have to complain? The website should first ask the artiste and the organiser for permission to record their work. No recording should be taken without their prior permission. Today the technology has reached such heights that anybody can walk into an auditorium with a small pencil-like recording device and record the performance. A ticket does not entitle a person to bring in his recording device.”

Easy reach

Namasankeertanam exponent Kovai Jayaraman on the other hand feels Sangeethapriya is a good platform for musicians to spread their work. “A lot of people and organisers have approached me after listening to me on this website. It helps keep music alive. I can get almost any music I want to listen to here. I have also given all my kutcheri songs to them. I believe music is God's gift and I want to share it,” says Jayaraman.

Even with differing views on the subject, numerous fans of classical music are happy that they can hear their favourite singers perform no matter where they are.