The Music Season as it is fondly called was started way back in the 1920s and it featured music concerts, harikathas, lec-dems and dance for a month. Titles were conferred and awards were given to highly competent musicians. It allowed aficionados of music to appreciate performances of not only the professionals but also the amateurs. The rasikas and performers were not only from Chennai, but also from all over the country. In fact it has become a way of life for many who cross the seas across the globe to be heard, seen and appreciated and to be part of the event. This slowly grew over the years and today it is one of the largest cultural events to be organized with more than 2000 performances between December – January.
The music and dance at these performances have undergone a radical change. While retaining the core values of the art a lot of novelty has been introduced to suit the modern era. There are the old timers who bemoan about the changes and still long to listen to the kutchery format of M. L. Vasantakumari and for the visual appeal of the margham of dancer Balasaraswathi. But the winds of change has never brought down the aesthetic appeal of the art form. So what is the view of teachers about the Chennai Music Season. A round up.
Madhuvanti Arun, Correspondent of Mrs. YGP School, Mylapore, feels that dance, music, yoga and sports are integral part of one’s tradition. “If we find that a child is interested in fine arts and if he / she is relatively good in studies we try to encourage the art in the child as much as possible. We have also made these fine arts an essential part of our curriculum.”
School teachers are also of the opinion that learning music develops a good power of concentration in a child. If the learning is done early it is even better. One can find the little ones sitting in the sabhas in rapt attention.
Helping beginners discover the discipline
“Music is an art which comes to you by way of listening than by learning,” says Mr. Srinivasan, a music teacher and disciple of Balamurali Krishna. It enables the learners to soak themselves in music during the 3-hour concerts. True, rarely do we get time to sit and listen to music or see a dance for such a long period. He has a word for those who do not know much about the art. “The small and big kutcheries that are held now gives an opportunity for them to find out if they have a taste for these fine arts. If they feel they have one the art slowly blossoms in them”.
Mr. Srinivasan is also of the view that it helps the beginners to discover the discipline to be followed while rendering a concert. “One also gets acquainted with nuances such as bhava, pattern of kalpana swaras, gestures and ragas.”
“The bhava, nritta, gestures are definitely improvised in a dancer not only by watching the concert but also by giving one. But are we given a chance? , asks Divya Sena, a dance teacher. She is a disciple of Suryanarayana Murthy who follows the Kalakshetra style of dance. Dancers are many and opportunities are less. Everytime she asks a sabha for a chance for her students they always say it is too late. It is a big question mark for budding artists, she says. “I am unable to tell my students to take it up as a profession,” she laments. On what basis are the selections made in the sabhas she asks.
“We give musicians a chance to perform only based on their vidwat,” says N. Balasubramanium of Brahma Gana Sabha The artists must have the capability to attract the audience. “For some there are more than 200 or 300 rasikas right from the beginning. We identify such people and give them a chance to perform,” he says. He also arranges concerts for pradosham and chathurthi at Mylapore and Thiruvanmiyur temples. Based on who the crowd pullers are he gives them a chance in his sabha.
According to him the season is a festival of the members of the sabha. It creates a rapport between many and serves as a time for new members to join. It is a mind boggling schedule not only for artistes but also for sabha secretaries. “We give the artists a platform to exhibit their vidwat, their innovations and what they have learnt in the previous year. As they work on the janya ragas, vakra ragas, create thematic dance dramas and new pieces it adds a feather to the cap and creates a flutter among the audience.”
Shyamala Ranganathan, a connoisseur of music feels that too many sabhas makes them miss out on the performances of their preferred artists. Also there are more number of venues in South Chennai and limited numbers spread in the rest of the city. “So if sabha secretaries can get together and organise the concerts in a phased manner the rasikas can enjoy most of them.” She was against use of cell phones and unnecessary gossip about artists among the audience during concerts. “If the sabhas can give a good ambience with no mobiles, good toilets and good seating, the season can turn out to be a joyous experience for the artists too.”
In a nutshell, the artists get a wide exposure at the festival which is staggered over for two months, by the ever growing number of sabhas. Added to this the patronage given by the rasikas in this pleasant climate at Chennai will definitely keep the mega event a worthwhile experience in the years to come.