Digital concert Music

Live ‘mehfils’ to beat COVID-19 lockdown blues

A file photo of Harini Rao

A file photo of Harini Rao   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Hyderabad-based Hindustani classical vocalist Harini Rao shares her experience of a live digital concert

Hindustani classical singer Harini Rao did something for the first time, on Friday evening. She sang live for an hour-long concert that was streamed via the Hindustani Classical Music and Everything (HCMAE) Facebook page.

The HCMAE has been hosting live concerts, inviting Hindustani classical musicians across the country to participate in their digital initiative of live mehfils, beginning March 20, as the nation prepared for the Janata Curfew and eventually the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

HCMAE has been promoting Hindustani classical music through its Facebook and Instagram accounts and had asked musicians to register for the live mehfils by sending them a detailed profile of their musical qualifications, achievements, and a link to their previous Hindustani classical music performances.

The forum has been hosting two or three hour-long live performances each day. While vocalists are requested to sing raag based khyal, madhyalay bandish or one semi-classical music item such as thumri, hori, bhajan, natyageet, Rabindra Sangeet or ghazal, instrumentalists can choose a raag and play aalap, jod, jhaala and gats with or without accompanists.

So far, the performers have tried to have a baithak setting from their homes. “It wasn’t tough,” says Harini, about creating a baithak experience from home: “We tested the light, angle and sound prior to the concert.”

What made Harini a tad nervous was the loyal audience the HCMAE live mehfils attracts. “Their Facebook page has a huge audience and a good number of active viewers, so I was a bit nervous during the concert,” she says and explains that at a real concert, the audience cheers and claps, is usually courteous and doesn’t boo the stage performer. However, in digital platforms, there’s scope for viewers to instantly send their reactions and comments.

Harini Rao during the live mehfil

Harini Rao during the live mehfil   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Harini concedes that while performing, it took a little more focus to not be tempted to read the comments and focus solely on the singing. “Luckily, it was an encouraging audience and there were no negative comments; I received a few requests [for songs],” she says.

She used the electronic tabla and tampura to accompany her vocal presentation, in the absence of real accompanists. The iTablaPro has been her go-to app for riyaaz and it came in handy for the live concert. “A lot of musicians use the app for practice sessions, since accompanying artists can’t always come home,” she explains.

Performing for an hour through a digital screen where the focus remains solely on the artiste can be daunting and at the same time exciting. Harini says she was keen to use every minute of the allotted time to present a range of compositions. The live concert was also a welcome break during lockdown and Harini had around 2400 viewers in all, and at least 200 active listeners at any given time.

(Check Hindustani Classical Music and Everything Facebook page for more live mehfils).

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 4:49:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/hindustani-classical-singer-harini-rao-and-many-others-are-part-of-the-live-mehfils-to-beat-covid-19-lockdown-blues/article31192198.ece

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