Artistic air from the Garden City

Madhu Natraj  

It is the biggest –– and possibly the best –– tribute to the classical arts. Chennai's annual cultural festival in December-January has become the most prestigious, and perhaps the large, platform for classical music and dance. The variety, quantity and quality on offer have made it the most awaited event for both the performing artists and the rasikas.

It is a pilgrimage of sorts that performers and connoisseurs have to make at least once in a lifetime, if not every year. That it is a wonderful learning experience for artists and audiences alike, is a given.

The Season is also when performers themselves become rasikas when they attend other artists' presentations in an attempt to understand current trends and experiments, and also get their finger on the pulse of the public on whose patronage they thrive. The learned audiences are a big draw and motivating force for artistes.

What's more, the fest draws artists from other States as well. Take Bengaluru. The artists, like those from the rest of India, eagerly await this cultural fiesta. So, what are their impressions?

Veteran vocalist R.K. Srikantan, who has been attending the Season since 1954 as a performer, has high praise for it. “Over the years, the number of sabhas, auditoriums, performers and rasikas has only increased and so has media coverage. Now, there are more concerts and academic sessions. We see the Trinity and lesser-known composers finding a place in the repertoire. All this is heartening and bodes well for the future of Carnatic music and dance.”

Vyjayanthi Kashi, the Kuchipudi exponent, choreographer and teacher, opines: “Where else do you get such a wonderful and prolonged Season of great music and dance! It's a boon for artists and connoisseurs alike. It showcases the beauty and greatness of our tradition, not only to Indians but also to a global audience --- the NRIs and foreigners who arrive specially for the Season.”

For renowned violin-duo Mysore Manjunath and Nagaraj, it's the best place to watch an array of performances as well as meet musicians and music lovers. “It is the one place where we see the classical arts held in such high esteem.”

Mridangam vidwan V. Krishna who has been a regular for the past two decades, thinks it is the greatest thing going for discerning music lovers. “The sheer variety on offer, and pleasant ambience for kutcheries –– not to forget the delicacies served outside –– draw music lovers again and again.”

The December Season has been an integral part of childhood of Madhu Natraj considering she is daughter of Kathak icon, Maya Rao. Says the Kathak and contemporary dancer and choreographer, “In the past decade and half, the Season has become an important part of my dance identity. My performances and lec-dems have met with an overwhelming response.”

Bengaluru's best-known male Bharatanatyam dancer, Sathyanarayana Raju, feels it provides plenty of opportunities to observe great talent and understand current trends.

However, the universal complaint is that often you cannot get the best of the entire festival, however nimbly or constantly you sabha-hop. The overcrowded calendar and overlapping of top-billed events can often leave rasikas sighing as much over what they have missed as exulting over what they enjoyed. Also, several worthy performances/ lec-dems meet with near-empty halls.

Srikantan feels better planning and coordination can ensure the calendar doesn't leave rasikas missing out on a good performer for the sake of another. V Krishna recounts how, decades ago as a junior artist, he was aghast at the near-empty venue he faced. “It still happens with many up and coming artists and I hope something can be done about this.” Madhu Natraj also says audiences can get sparse with too much happening at the same time.

For Vyjayanthi, there is not enough emphasis on dance forms other than Bharatanatyam. “More space should be given to non Bharatanatyam forms and their performers.”

Instrumental music appears to be getting lesser prominence every year, according to the Mysore Brothers; they would love to see this perceived imbalance corrected. More opportunities for lesser known, up and coming artists, is one common suggestion. said all.

But keep it going and please make it bigger and better, they all say. After all, as every artist and rasika agrees, there is nothing like the December Music Season when it comes to showcasing and promoting our classical performing arts.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 11:51:30 AM |

Next Story