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The onus rests with the youth

The future of Carnatic music depends on the vital segment of society — the youth power, says SVK with reasons.

The attendance of young listeners in large numbers is the need of the hour.

IN WHICH direction and in what dimension is Carnatic music moving and what artistic fashions determine the popularity of an artiste today? How do musicians continue to fit into the glitzy performing arena?

These trends pop up because the present situation is one of crumbling lineage.

It passes understanding how and why music sabhas and altruistic promoters overlook the merit of the artistes whom they schedule in their festivals. In this context there are those who firmly believe that the aesthetic tradition in Carnatic music can still stir and inspire but feel distressed that the heritage is interred in its glorious past.

Every musician has to pose the question to himself: "Will I be in the field ten years from now?" This is the dilemma before them because youngsters come in droves and as they proliferate all over sabhas, even recognisable and middle-aged vidwans fear they may be swept aside. This results in the acceptance of many concerts in the short span of their career at the cost of rigorous practice. The other motivation is to gather money as quickly as possible before another new face takes the place. For, sabhas pride on ushering in new young artistes, who in the early stages are satisfied with whatever remuneration is offered to get a foothold in the field.

This suits the sabhas because they can lengthen the duration of the festival. If an elder musician is worried this way the youngsters too have a similar trepidation because opportunities for the new generation go to those with effective influential backing.

So, for both the categories of musicians the prime concern is how to keep themselves afloat, not by the quality of their music, but by extraneous props. Also with very little of practice, age is catching up with even the handful of seniors. It cannot be said that the senior and junior artistes today are averse to the pursuit of excellence. What holds them back? As stated earlier unhealthy competition is one. Quick recognition has to be achieved.

The other arising from this is the uncertainty as to how long they can enjoy the patronage of rasikas, whose tastes are fickle and whose attendance in large numbers is dictated by the media projecting some in terms larger than life. That is why we find many musicians academically well qualified earning ten times more than their musical equipment can ensure; but if they deliberately choose the latter it is the temptation of gaining public acclaim — through periodic announcement of concerts in the newspapers, the awards conferred by sabhas, participating in the lec-dems arranged by musicologists who themselves conduct the workshops, forays in jugalbandis and fusion music and manoeuvres to make annual trips abroad — in short a desire to be always in the public eye.

This is only one side of the picture. The other side is the steep fall in the appreciative level of the rasikas.

Therefore, the criticism that the musician community in general is indifferent to standards is only a half-truth. The quality of any product is dependent on the vigilance of the consumer. If a musician can satisfy the meagre attendance in a concert hall with this-will-do attitude to exposition what motivation is there for him to do his best. The artistes and the rasikas therefore have to share equal responsibility for today's state of affairs.

When we speak of the bunch of musicians of the past holding tenaciously to standards, we have also to take into account the numerous vidwans whose musical career had stopped with the status of a tuition master in many households, remaining unsung.

Considering this deplorable divide between the reputed and tuition-based artistes, the present climate must be hailed because both the senior and novices are provided the same platform.

Their names are familiar to rasikas unlike the olden days when platforms were for the eminent and the harmonium to the less equipped.

Their names in the newspaper columns, their projection on the TV screen, offer of awards to them by the sabhas do not smack of any discrimination on the basis of quality. In this respect the music field is wide open to one and all willing to play with their luck.

One thing must be appreciated — the sabhas are offering a level field for seniors and juniors to attract the public.

These are all peripheral factors. The remedy for rejuvenation of Carnatic music lies elsewhere. Carnatic music cannot isolate itself from the pulls and pressures of modern life styles.

Musicians have to run their families, educate their children, and discharge other financial responsibilities.

Can the sabhas offering meagre remuneration to performers fill the family kitty? As the English poet has said, God fulfils himself in many ways and the expanding invitations to musicians from abroad have shown them a reliable income source.

This welcome development will induce some to take to Carnatic music in earnest, for there is offshore publicity and largesse.

As for the fastidious rasikas, their mindset of old is gold stands in the way of being more charitable to the musicians. A readjustment of values is called for.

Have we not come to terms with the coiffure and costumes of young girls and boys? Carnatic music demands a similar reconciliation.

Such an acceptance is what is expected of listeners. But really the future of Carnatic music depends not only on the willingness of the aged alone but also on the more vital segment of society — the youth power.

As at present, musicians are young, the audience sixty-plus. How long will the older generation have the strength and health to attend performances?

But unfortunately the youth who can breathe life into Carnatic music is totally absent in concert halls. If provocative costumes, fast-food mania, pop music and the none-can-question attitude to life are gaining enormous prestige and attraction it is because youngsters have taken to it with great avidity. If Carnatic music has to survive only the younger generation can do something. We have young musicians, not young listeners.

Music halls have to be filled by youngsters. Can this be expected from them in the matter of patronising the flower of Indian culture (Carnatic music) in the same way they respond to the wiles of western influences holding them in tight grip?

The answer is anybody's guess.

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