Music

Artistes on board!

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The Chennai airport is teeming with excitement. With strains of the most distinctive keerthanais playing over the speakers, there’s a bustle of energy that flows through the airport. Instruments are unloaded at a rapid pace and over the next few days, amidst the trials and tribulations of jet lag, artistes from around the world will prove their mettle and indulge in a month of concert-hopping and coffee-sipping. Of course, there’s a bundle of preparation involved and so as we dive in, a few artistes share what goes into preparing for the busiest month of their year.

Manasa Suresh,

Carnatic vocalist, U.S.

Artistes on board!

How do you prepare for Margazhi?

While practice is more free-flowing during the year, pre-Season preparation is more of an introspective and systematic process. I make song lists ahead of time and work towards building vocal endurance for the many concerts I will have to present.

Is there an effort to keep up with certain artistic trends that have occurred while you’ve been away?

Not necessarily, although being able to live-stream off-season concerts motivates me to work on fresh ideas and explore themes and ragas that are new to me.

Do you find it difficult to stay relevant, given that you spend most of the year away from Chennai and the artistic circuit?

Given that I have spent much time in Chennai in the past, learning from my guru, P.S. Narayanaswamy and pursuing a Fulbright grant in the arts, I’m blessed that these foundational relationships have continued to support and encourage me, even while I’m away. This way, when I go back, I feel right at home.

Given that your trip is so short and filled with performances, is there any part of the Season experience you feel you miss out on?

Listening to other concerts, definitely. I never want to turn down opportunities to perform, but I also never want to miss out on listening to the incredible live concerts that take place every year. It’s definitely a balancing act, year after year.

Aneka Srinivasan:

Carnatic vocalist, Australia

Artistes on board!

How do you prepare for Margazhi?

Being in Australia, our exams fall right before the start of the Season. Hence, the few weeks leading up to it mainly consist of juggling between university exams and practising rigorously. I also work closely with my guru, Jayshree Ramachandran, to plan interesting repertoires for performances to come.

Is there an effort to keep up with certain artistic trends that have occurred while you’ve been away?

Definitely! I think it’s important to see what's going on in the Carnatic world. Being away from Chennai, it does make this slightly harder but I'm always on the lookout for interesting and out of the ordinary compositions and unique ragas. While social media has made it easier to ‘keep up,’ I’ve definitely noticed that ghana ragas and gems of the Trinity are constants that will be appreciated in any concert.

Do you find it difficult to stay relevant, given that you spend most of the year away from Chennai and the artistic circuit?

Being just my second Season, I can say gaining performance opportunities this time around was slightly easier than last year. Of course, it helps to make an active effort to form networks while in Chennai and interact with as many people as possible.

Given that your trip is so short and filled with performances, is there any part of the Season experience you feel you miss out on?

Always. At the end of each visit, I always feel like I could have attended more concerts. Luckily, it’s a feeling that’s short-lived as a multitude of eminent musicians visit Melbourne every year, showering us with music.

Nanthesh Sivarajah

Mridangist, Australia

Nanthesh Sivarajah

Nanthesh Sivarajah  

How do you prepare for Margazhi?

My pre-season prep usually consists of targeted listening and playing along to videos or recordings. If I know who I will be accompanying, I try to find recordings of them singing and/or playing to get a sense of their style. Of course, the promise of concerts pushes you to practise with purpose.

Is there an effort to keep up with certain artistic trends that have occurred while you’ve been away?

Definitely, and over the past decade, I've noticed some emerging themes and trends. For example, complex pallavis seem to be more prevalent in the last few years. Various forms of social media make it easier for us to follow these trends.

Do you find it difficult to stay relevant, given that you spend most of the year away from Chennai and the artistic circuit?

It is always difficult staying relevant when you live overseas, especially as a mridangam artist where performance opportunities are largely dependent on relationships with local artists. Many overseas artists address this by trying to maintain relationships with local artists during the off-season period, keeping people informed of their December plans, and also by engaging directly with sabhas. But then personally, I’d prefer my mridangam playing to speak for myself rather than cultivating relationships.

Given that your trip is so short and filled with performance, is there any part of the Season experience you feel you miss out on?

The trade off with short visits is that I don't get as much time as I would like to spend with my guru, T.R. Sundaresan, and to attend concerts of other artistes, particularly emerging ones.

Kalaisan Kalaichelvan:

Bharatanatyam dancer, Canada

Artistes on board!

How do you prepare for Margazhi?

Personally, I feel a good Season is not the goal, but the by-product of continuous sadhana which I work on with my guru, A. Lakshmanaswamy. Performance, then, is simply a way to test the Margam that has been internalised in a rehearsal space. The conditions change, but the work remains the same.

Is there an effort to keep up with certain artistic trends that have occurred while you’ve been away?

I don’t think so. Trends are seasonal and often cyclical. But the moment I curate my work and training to any one fad, I believe it becomes compromised and disingenuous. I believe the beauty of Chennai is that as a cultural hub, it can hold multiple aesthetics and perspectives. As someone based outside of Chennai, I offer a particularly unique perspective of my own, highly influenced by my own upbringing. My aim, then, is to dance as honestly as possible.

Do you find it difficult to stay relevant, given that you spend most of the year away from Chennai and the artistic circuit?

For me, I come to Chennai to dance for myself and to learn as both a performer and a rasika while working on my craft. I believe if one trusts in that process, an audience (inevitably) follows. Therefore, it’s never really been about being ‘relevant’ for me.

Given that your trip is so short and filled with performances, is there any part of the Season experience you feel you miss out on?

Tons! The rush of season is both exhilarating and exhausting and sometimes, I wish I could simply visit as a rasika again, hopping between sabhas, engaging in conversation, and witnessing the best of performances.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 5:52:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/artistes-on-board/article30123660.ece

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