Music

Margazhiyil Makkalisai is back

A performance from last year’s Margazhiyil Makkalisai

A performance from last year’s Margazhiyil Makkalisai

If this is the month when art, music and dance is celebrated in Chennai, there is a festival that seeks to go beyond what is limitingly defined as ‘classical’. This December, Neelam Cultural Centre returns with yet another edition of Margazhiyil Makkalisai — a festival of arts that is a search for the original roots of Tamil and Tamil people. The festival seeks to redefine Chennai’s cultural scene by bringing together various forms of arts and giving a much-needed platform to those who practise these forms. This year, the festival seeks to break yet another form of rigidity by having performances beyond Chennai.

In December 2020, the first edition of Margazhiyil Makkalisai saw about 350 artistes coming together from across Tamil Nadu to showcase forms such as oppari, gana, hip-hop, rap and thenmangu at popular venues, including Vani Mahal, Mylapore Fine Arts and Rajah Annamalai Mandram. “Last year, we fully adhered to the Covid protocols. The safety of our audience and the artistes was our first priority. It will continue to be our priority this year,” says rapper and lyricist Therukural Arivu, also the festival director. Last year, the festival ended with an electrifying performance by the Casteless Collective band in Chennai.

This year’s edition is bigger, better and brings more artistes on board. And it will travel to other cities, Madurai on December 18 and Coimbatore on December 19. The Chennai edition is from December 24 to 31. On December 31, the curtains will come down on this edition, again with a performance by the Casteless Collective. “The idea is to give lesser-known artistes a platform,” says well-known Tamil filmmaker Pa Ranjith, who is also the founder of Neelam Cultural Centre.

Filmmaker and founder of Neelam Cultural Centre Pa Ranjith

Filmmaker and founder of Neelam Cultural Centre Pa Ranjith

Margazhiyil Makkalisai will see about 500 artistes from across Tamil Nadu present forms such as parai, jikkattam, kadavu mathattam, pillur tribal dance, and periya melam, among others. The inaugural event at Madurai on December 18 will feature about 100 parai artistes. “The festival will showcase not just leading talents, but also the vibrancy and life of these art forms,” says Arivu, famous for his single ‘Enjoy Enjaami’.

The idea of Margazhiyil Makkalisai resonates with the identity of the ancient Tamil land, where art forms and cultural expression have flourished from time immemorial. “The survival of these cultural identities makes our heritage rich; our songs and dances leave us with a glimpse of the colourful lives our ancestors have led,” says Arivu. “Our ancestors nourished art forms that worshipped nature, celebrated language, and treated all people with equality. Margazhiyil Makkalisai, we hope, will be a platform where these forms regain their rightful place in history.”

Tool to unite

To Arivu and the other artistes who are part of this festival, art is a powerful tool to unite an otherwise fragmented society. He says, “Our philosophy of art is not merely aesthetic, rather it must play a role in removing the divisive tendencies of human nature. We believe art by the people and for the people is the vehicle to move towards a freer world. Neelam Cultural Centre has the ambitious goal of pulling forward the caravan of liberty, equality and fraternity.”

The huge success of the first edition has made the organisers more conscious of their responsibility and of the power of music and art. “We still have a long way to go. The responsibility of staging and celebrating many talented yet marginalised Makkalisai artistes lies with us. We expect a turnout of around 5,500 people this year, up from last year’s footfall of 2,500,” says Arivu.

The performances at Madurai and Coimbatore will be free, while in Chennai, tickets for performances will be priced at Rs. 200 each. The season’s pass for all eight days will be priced at Rs. 1,200.

For tickets, go to

www.townscript.com/e/ margazhiyil-makkalisai-2021-110402.

The writer is an independent

Chennai-based journalist.


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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 9:51:55 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/margazhiyil-makkalisai-is-back/article37970051.ece