With proliferation of concert halls, first-timers and lesser-known artistes are getting a look-in, writes K. Sarumathi

The sounds of music and the rendition may be the same, yet the December fest brings in a new freshness every year. The Margazhi season, which turns Chennai into a temple of performing arts, has seen tremendous changes over the years. Long-time members of certain sabhas in Mylapore trace this transformation, which has given the music season new flavours: some sour and some sweet.

Santhanakrishnan, president of the Rasika Ranjani Sabha for 15 years now, talks about the exponential growth of sabhas in the city, especially in and around Mylapore, which has led to rasikas getting dispersed across halls. “You cannot expect all artistes to perform to a full house now. There are more than 15 small sabhas in and around Mylapore and a few have come up in the suburbs as well. While picking artistes they want to see performing, people also favour sabhas closest home. Now a crowd of 200 to 250 people is considered good.”

Moreover, electronic media has taken a toll on performing arts as people get to see their favourite artistes from the comfort of their houses, he adds.

Another change that sabhas have a hard time accepting is that they can no longer afford top artistes all the time. “Getting artistes has become quite expensive now. We prefer getting lesser know performers and making it a ticket-less programme. Top artistes need to be paid well,” says Sundararaman, founder secretary of Sri Kapali Fine Arts.

But, youth seem to have emerged victorious in the process of transformation. Most sabhas have started offering a platform to upcoming talents.

“Senior artistes are the epitome of music, but the audience also want to hear fresh voices and see top performers-in-the-making. The focus is now on developing new talent. This shift has mainly happened due to more discerning and knowledgeable rasikas and the youth getting into carnatic music in a big way,” says Mr. Santhanakrishnan.

Such is the demand for fresh performers that R.R. Sabha is planning to start a music college training students in both vocal and instrumental music. Every year they conduct Yuva Sangeetha Mela during June for young performers.

Another change that is likely in the future is integration of music and musicians from other southern States during the December fest. You may also get to see artistes from north performing.

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