Carnatic music by the bay

Scenes from previous editions of the festival Photo: Bijoy Ghosh  

Fishermen and women stood transfixed at a lively rendition of ‘Nagumomu’ — by four young Carnatic instrumentalists, and cheered the earthy music and lyrics of the Kuppam children’s villu pattu — an audience you will normally see in a sabha. When Anita Guha’s students danced to ‘Ardhanareeswarar Kuravanji’, the applause wouldn’t end. “‘Ennavale Ennavale’” shouted the children of Urur Olcott Kuppam when Unnikrishnan paused between kritis.

That was at the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha in 2015. In 2016, the basic format remains the same — the festival is held in an open area facing the sea, there are clean-up drives, crowd-funding of costs, social-media promos, and events for outreach. The project’s philosophy has been that arts presented to untested audiences do receive appreciation, and help celebrate differences. More people have joined in to run the Vizha in a spirit of true volunteerism.

This year, organisers hope more walls will come down, that the kuppam as a concert venue will be accepted and will be filled with audiences from all sections of society. The floods have given the Vizha an unexpected validation. “The floods were an equaliser, and reminded us of our shared fate as a city,” said Nityanand Jayaraman, the volunteer-in-chief. “The spirit with which we came together to help is the spirit that the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha seeks to celebrate.” The festival is designed as an occasion to reduce the trauma suffered by people during the floods, and as thanksgiving to those who jumped in for rescue and relief.    

I asked two first-time volunteers what the Vizha means to them. “It signifies inclusion,” says Arun Saravanakumar. “It reinforces the truth that art is for all; it can break barriers we have created among ourselves. “The Vizha has a universal vision for art,” says Vignesh Ramanujam of Vexo. He likens arts to the Internet, in how they are both equalisers. “If the Internet gives access to knowledge for all, art evokes emotion, no matter who they are.” The Vizha celebrates differences without discriminating the form, venue and artiste and sets an example of equality.

A festival must respond to its context and curators must be conscious of its relevance, says musician T.M. Krishna. It is with this awareness that Urur-Olcott Kuppam Vizha returns in 2016. “The Vizha will feature a diverse array of art forms, including short performances by young students of music and dance from various sections of society.”

Everyone has the right to Carnatic music, says artist Unnikrishnan, recalling those “thrilling” moments when the surf played accompaniment to his singing. “I have the advantage of singing for films; and people relate to me as they are familiar with my songs.”

Be there for all events — starting with T.M. Krishna and group’s music at Elliot’s Beach on the evening of February 13. There is something magical about the way the sea breeze transports the majestic notes of ‘Mahaganapathim’ inland to an audience that includes fishermen and vendors standing around and tapping their feet in rhythm.

Here is the schedule
Feb. 13 TM Krishna at Besant Nagar Beach, 5.30 p.m.
Feb. 20 Gayathri Venkataraghavan, V.V.S. Murari (violin), B. Sivaraman (mridangam), Harihara Sharma (kanjira) at Ayodhya Mandapam, West Mambalam, 6.30 p.m.
Feb. 21 Beach clean-up. Assemble in front of Thalapakatti Restaurant at Besant Nagar Beach, 6.30 a.m.
Feb. 27 Featuring Raghu Dixit, Paraiattam, Bharatanatyam by Sheejith Krishna & co, and Villuppaattu at Ellaiamman Koil, Besant Nagar, 5.30 p.m.
Feb. 28 Featuring the children’s choir, Vijay Siva and Sean Roldan & friends at Ellaiamman Koil, 5.30 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:29:03 PM |

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