Friday Review

Bridging the gap

Urur-Olcott Kuppam. Photo: K. Ananthan

Urur-Olcott Kuppam. Photo: K. Ananthan  

The Urur-Olcott Margazhi Festival aims to bring together worlds that are disparate. During the much celebrated music season in Chennai, a group of musicians take music to the fishing community

It is Margazhi and Chennai is now transformed into a different world altogether. If you take a walk through Mylapore in the evenings, you will be surprised to see the number of sabhas and concerts that are happening simultaneously! It’s not difficult though, to identify the two worlds that exist within this city, one that is soaked and drowned in classical music and the other which is totally disinterested in it. Art always breaks free from all the boundaries that try to define it and yet here we are in this new millennium living in islands that are often imprisoned in their own esoteric systems. It is about time that we build bridges and let the islands communicate and coexist in harmony.

Classical Music cannot be stuck to a class of people and certain venues alone. It has to grow beyond this and reach out to everyone. Tyagaraja swamy did not just compose a heavy Kriti like “Kaddanu Variki” in todi raagam or “Naadopasana” in Begada, he also wrote a series of utsava sampradaya kritis, bhajana sampradaya kritis, divya nama sankeertanams in much simpler raga frame works and styles so that everyone could easily sing it. He went ahead and wrote musical operas like Prahlada Bhaktivijayam and Naukacharitam so that classical music could be a part of the theatre tradition. This inclusive approach enriched his music and took his music beyond the walls of orthodox classicism. Artistes today must break away from their shells and create an amicable environment for art to flourish.

Classical music was never as detached from the masses as it is today. Earlier, there was the Harikatha tradition and the Nataka companies that stood as the bridge between classical music and the common masses. Cinema later took up this task and till even recently we saw cinema propagate classical music. How can we forget how K. Balachandar talked about taking music out of its comfort zone in his musical film Sindhubhairavi? This is the time to act and change this and it is commendable that a bunch of artists have stepped forward to bring in the change.

This Margazhi a new music season is happening just around the outskirts of Chennai. Urur – Olcott Kuppam is a small fishing village that will witness this celebration of art. When T.M. Krishna and his friends wanted to experiment with this idea, several groups working closely with the fishing community in this ancient fishing settlement, which is older that the Chennai city itself came together to turn this into reality. The “Urur Olcott Margazhi Festival” as it is being called, aims to achieve much more than just getting stuck to heavy jargons and token gestures. It aims at not only providing entertainment or soul curry to the fishermen community that resides around the region through art, but to primarily heal the arts itself and the artists by opening them to new audiences and new environments. This festival will not only break the barriers that are artificially created by several factors, it will also deconstruct the idea of art and classicism. Just like the community of people today, art also plays host to lot of discrimination and class politics and this festival wants to make humble beginning at ending these practices. Says environmental activist Nityanand Jayaram who works with the community: “We are very excited to see how the artists communicate with the members of the fishing community and how this interaction might enrich both sides. The intention is to bring together two worlds that can mutually heal each other and grow. Inclusive growth is the healthiest and most fruitful.”

The festival will feature a panorama of presentations ranging from classical Vocals by P. Unnikrishnan, instrumental music by the formidable violin duo Ganesh-Kumaresh along with the veena virtuoso Jayanti Kumaresh, a dance drama by the Kalakshetra Group on one end and Villippaattu, Kattikuttu and Paraiattam on the other end. The festival will give equal space for the classical as well as the folk forms to shine and hence enunciate the ideology of oneness it intends to bring through this venture.

Just a week before the commencement of this event, different volunteers and groups will come together to have a Beach Cleanup. The organisers make sure to clarify that this beach cleanup is not a follow-up act to the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan but is done solely with the intention of bringing communities together and to really highlight how the majority community often ignores and forgets the minority and its dwelling spaces too. Everyone involved with this event emanate positive hope, that this first step will be followed by many in the future. Such efforts are essential to inject the idea of democracy into art and to take art into a whole new level from where it currently exists.

“We are very excited about this event. Great artists will perform for us and spend time with us. The artists want to spend time with us, and that is a very positive thing to happen,” says Saravanan who belongs to the village of Urur-Olcott.

The Urur Olcott beach cleanup will be held on the 20 of December at 7 a.m. and the cultural events will be held on the December 29 and 30, 5.50 p.m. onwards.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 7:06:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/ururolcott-margazhi-festival/article6704274.ece

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