TREND Overtaken by concerts, young performers have little time to practise. Palghat R. Ramprasad

In the past few years, Carnatic music has witnessed significant changes in trend, both on and off the dais. The sheer volume of concerts that artists of the present generation perform has been an integral part of the change.

According to Semmangudi mama, presenting one concert is equivalent to a whole month’s practice. Also, only with experience comes maturity. These things being said, do we also have to be concerned about too many concerts that artists, especially youngsters in their formative stages, perform these days? In other words, does performing say eight or ten concerts in a month benefit the young aspirants?

The main concern is that these young artists may not find as much time to practise as required. The fall out of this situation may be much more serious than what is imagined. Here, this writer is looking at the number of concerts an artist performs only in the music season, but more generally over a period of time.

Poise and maturity

The value attached to a thing decreases when more of it becomes available (theory of marginal utility, in economics parlance). Thus, unless a youngster with a packed schedule is extremely poised and mentally mature, the lessons a concert may offer will not be appreciated. There is the possibility of monotony setting in (both for the artist and the rasika), with less time to reflect upon one’s performance. This leads to a casual approach, the occasion (of performing before an audience) losing its sanctity. The ‘weight’ accorded to songs and sangatis, especially with regard to the compositions of Trinity, which comes only with intense practice, is conspicuous by its absence. With the result such renditions refuse to make an impression on the audience.

Unable to invest time on practice, some artists may be tempted to substitute heavy songs with light ones that require less effort. This could be a costly substitution considering that Carnatic music is built on the principles of weight obtained from extensive practice and repetition.

As an artist who has attended graduate level class in “voice training in alternate forms of music,” I have learnt that using the vocal chords for extended periods of time can damage the voice permanently. Presenting a concert involves strain - both mental and physical. The effect of performing at too many places can well be imagined. Thus, if artists in their early 20s fill their calendars with say ten concerts a month, what holds for them in their thirties and forties (which is the prime age for artists) with regard to their voice is questionable and worrying, at best.

But the coin has another side. No potential artist is going to decline a chance to perform, for his career may be at stake. And there are dozens of aspirants waiting to take his place.

The organisers, in turn, have to oblige the sponsors, who have their own favourites.

In the larger interest of Carnatic music, unless there is a concerted effort from both the organisers and the artists, this issue is not likely to get resolved. The need of the hour is less number of concerts with the accent on quality. The listeners will benefit with the demand on their attention span reduced to that extent. Concerts were not dime a dozen those days and perhaps that is why we still cherish the performances.

Presenting one concert

is equivalent to a

whole month’s practice.- Semmangudi