From sabhas to streaming services

“My guru Sudha Ragunathan and her guru M.L. Vasanthakumari have set to tune several Purandaradasa kritis,” says Carnatic vocalist and playback singer (of Bahubali fame) V. Deepika before rendering one for the Mani Krishnaswamy Academy Facebook live show. Amidst the floating thumbs up and heart emojis, one of the comments says, “Such a beautiful voice, who is she?” Though artistes are missing the energy and applause of audiences in an auditorium, they are discovering a new and exciting way of staying connected with listeners.

Classical performances went online some six months ago when the lockdown began. Now, there are performances almost every day, with artistes charging much less than they do for live shows and some performing for free.

They are also becoming tech-savvy in order to be able to present a perfect online concert. For this, of course, they have taken the help of the experts who offer streaming services.

“Talent from all over the world is being streamed on the Live4You platform that came into being within minutes of the lockdown in March,” says Prakash RSV, the man behind the online platform that is among the most sought after by Carnatic musicians and fans.

Digital expanse

Seeing the response, Live4You has now extended its services to Bharatanatyam and popular music. The platform apparently gets views ranging from a few thousand to even two lakh views for Carnatic music shows. “After the lockdown, this was my way of spreading positivity among the artiste fraternity,” says Prakash, a Chennai-based finance professional, who has recently opened a live-streaming platform for marriages, industrial events, and other celebrations.

Though an artiste’s worth cannot be judged by the number of views, comments or shares, Prakash strongly believes there is definite value at least for the number of views. “Only if someone stays on the page for at least two minutes does Facebook count it as a view. If the performance is not riveting, a viewer will leave the page in seconds, the attention span on the Internet being so short.” Live4You has hosted over 250 concerts, including that of top musicians. “We have also conducted competitions,” he says. Prakash’s new venture Easwara will provide professional quality concerts from studios on Facebook live. “To solve technical glitches, we began the ‘Live4You Discussions’ to guide artistes regarding lighting, audio and camera placement ahead of the concert,” explains Prakash.

If the Mangaluru-based Mani Krishnaswamy Academy (MKA) has become a household name, it is because of the efforts of Nityananda Rao and his son Vibhu Rao. The quality of programming comes from Rao’s deep respect for the late vocalist Mani Krishnaswamy’s music.

From sabhas to streaming services

It all began when he took his daughter Prarthana Sai Narasimhan to her as a student. “Her teaching was so inspiring that my entire family became her admirer,” says the businessman-cum-music connoisseur. After her demise in 2002, Rao started the Mani Krishnaswamy Academy.

Non-stop music

Rao has been organising concerts, workshops, lec-dems and early morning performances under a flyover in Surathkal. “One such recital was scheduled for April 5 but had to be cancelled. It was then that I suggested to my son to hold it online instead of cancelling. Since then the music hasn’t stopped.”

From sabhas to streaming services

MKA has held 300 concerts on FB live. “Funds for our programmes from central and State governments, corporates and individuals stopped because of the lockdown,” says Vibhu. They now accept voluntary contributions, which has helped them pay artistes, many of whom in turn donate the amount to needy musicians. Programmes attract 50,000 to 2 lakh views.

According to Nityananda Rao, “The digital platform has widened the performer and viewer base. Besides listeners from across the country, we have many people watching from Dubai, Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S.

Going by the response, it looks like artistes and viewers have adapted well to the new normal. Chennai-based Chitravina Ganesh’s Gayatri Fine Arts (GFA) has been live-streaming concerts over the last few months. Administered by Michigan-based Vidya Venkatesh, its Facebook handle hosts artistes not only from the U.S. and other parts of the world, but also from Chennai and other parts of India. On Krishna Jayanti, GFA held eight hours of a thematic performance by 16 artistes on FB live. “The first concert was in New Zealand, then in India, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S.,” says Vidya, an IT professional and head of event management at GFA.

From sabhas to streaming services

For Navaratri, nine senior artistes are to perform, and on Saraswati Puja and Vijayadashami, a Guru Samarpanam is planned with 21 artistes.

“Singers have realised the significance of this medium and are trying to understand its working. This is heart-warming and shows how art helps them transform with changing times. I remember how during one live streaming we were desperately sending messages to the artiste about a problem with his audio. We usually advise performers to invest in a quality mike and to have someone around with a phone in hand when they are performing,” says Vidya.

Of a high standard

Flautist Shantala Subramanyam has been curating Kalakriya, the live concert arm of Indian Classical Gems (ICG) FB, yet another popular page for Carnatic music.

From sabhas to streaming services

With 1.5 lakh followers, ICG has been playing music videos for three to four years. “The good thing is Lakshminarayanan Chudamany, the page administrator, is the only one who can post music videos in this group. This has kept the standard high,” says Shantala, emphasising on the need to maintain quality while going online.

“We have a good balance of vocalists and instrumentalists ,” she says, adding that every live concert gets more than 5,000 views.

Shantala’s thematic presentations include Vaishnava composers and Lalgudi’s popular compositions. Upcoming programmes include Chitravina Ravikiran’s compositions, Navavaranam, Swati Thirunal’s Navaratri kritis, and U.S.-based youngsters, under the age of 15, singing Devi kritis.

What is special about Kalakriya’s live streams is that Shantala anchors each show, choosing the artiste’s repertoire, explaining the raga, tala, composers, and the history behind the song. “I also speak of prosody or narrate anecdotes; and if it’s an instrumental concert, I talk about the instrument and its technique.” These parts are pre-recorded and merged with the live presentation by a tech person in Florida. “In order to help pakkavadhyam artistes, especially those based in small towns with no access to technology and no income, we sometimes mix their pre-recorded performance with the live show,” she explains.

The writer is a trained

classical musician.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 4:16:52 AM |

Next Story