Launched in 1928, the December music festival of The Music Academy remains an integral part of Chennai’s cultural milieu, uninterrupted even during the second World War or the tsunami in 2004. This year however, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions on public gatherings, make it impossible for the Academy to go ahead with the festival in its physical form. And so, it has decided to organise a virtual music festival.
“This is an extraordinary situation as the pandemic is raging and uncontrollable. We do not know what the regulations will be and we cannot expose musicians and the rasikas to the dangers of the disease. We cannot be expected to organise physical concerts, especially in an air-conditioned auditorium,” said N. Murali, president of the Academy. Some of the regular/normal features of a regular, full, physical season will have to be forgone, given the extraordinary circumstances.
But the Academy does not want this Margazhi season to be a washout, and has been actively considering ideas to organise the festival through a digital platform. Discussions are at an advanced stage, and the final touches will be ready soon. It is expected that the length of the concerts will be curtailed.
“We have decided to do it imaginatively. We will record the concerts, live-stream them and upload them on digital platforms for free listening. Obviously, it will not be for the full duration between December 15 and January 1 as it has been all along,” said Mr Murali, pointing out that the Academy was already running a YouTube channel.
However, this means that the concerts can reach a wider global audience that could not so far attend kutcheries confined within the four walls of an auditorium. “Moreover, it will open up the possibility of organising physical and virtual concerts going forward,” he explained.
Other sabhas, including Brahma Gana Sabha, Hamsadhwani, Karthik Fine Arts, Narada Gana Sabha, Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha and Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha, which are part of the federation of City Sabhas, will together organise a virtual festival.
“We will use the digital platform to preserve the continuing tradition amidst this pandemic. The festival will be held for ten to twelve days during the third and fourth weeks of December,” said K. Harishankar, secretary of the federation. He said the federation would chalk out the events for the festival in due course.
“The federation will work out the details and organise support for artistes who are financially affected during this period. All the members of the sabhas have expressed their unanimous support to make the annual festival a success in this challenging environment and reaffirmed their commitment towards promoting arts and culture in a sustained way,” Mr Harishankar added.