‘Come September’, an old English song used to go in my childhood days to herald something enchanting in that month

Now it is December and Chennai -a combo that makes it something to look forward to for all Carnatic Music lovers, year after year.

Traditionally termed Marghazhi month in the winter, Chennai rocks to a different beat throughout December. …The melodious strains of Carnatic Music waft up from at least 10 well known Sabhas in the City.

Being a Carnatic music aficionado, it is a gala but busy time of the year flitting from one sabha to another catching the best of your favourite artistes. All the frontline artistes are seen at most venues lending credence to the hype of December- the Music season here.

The popular English daily, The Hindu said on this subject thus recently:

The December music festival in Chennai is as much about quantity as it is about quality.

With so many sabhas scattered around the city and hundreds of artistes participating in the festival, it becomes quite an exercise for rasikas to plan their schedules for the month.

I have been a Carnatic music lover too for many years and can think of nothing better than to catch a ‘piece of action’ on my evenings and weekends.

Whilst at Bangalore I was a regular on the Ramotsava beat when Bangalore celebrates Carnatic music the best.

My parents had always fostered the Classical and light music culture in us from my childhood days.We used to attend concerts etc in Malleswaram where I grew up then.
It was no different after my marriage. If anything, the love for music only blossomed further.
Music came naturally to my wife, a daughter of veteran AIR Mrudangam vidwan, Sri V.V. Ranganathan, and she grew up to be a delightful singer in family circles and popular in her office as well. Her brothers and sisters all sing exceptionally well besides being percussionists of sorts and my wife’s aunt who went by the pen name of ‘sharada dasi’ was a rare impromptu composer of krithis in many languages. Thus my children have some musical genes running in them as well. My daughter attends classes.

Back to Chennai. Hailed as the hub of Carnatic music, Chennai can and does offer you the variety, class, grace and joy and all that this genre has to offer.

I was able to catch 3 to 4 excellent kutcheries this season already and it is only midway through the season yet.

There was Bombay Jayashree Ramnath giving a soulful rendition of saint Thaygaraja and Muthuswami dikshitar krithis the other day at a packed Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan hall in Mylapore. It was a ‘free’ concert to boot…Most of them in this season aren’t, you see…

Mylapore, a tradition bound area is verily the Mecca of Carnatic music . It has some five to six very popular sabhas and boasts of equally good auditoria. Many popular artistes reside here as well.

Then there was Sudha Raghunathan, a disciple of the legendary MLV, at her sublime best with able accompaniments of Mrudangam and Morching singing her heart out with ‘Rama nannu brovara’ and such popular krithis at a T Nagar auditorium last week. She has the range, the appeal and variety and she makes full use of her abilities.

The other memorable one was a double concert of Nithyasree Mahadevan and P Unnikrishnan at Narada Gana sabha in Alwarpet. Both artistes , young masters in their own right, gave brisk, energetic and melodious concerts that lasted 2 hous each. It was really an elevating experience. Nithaysree , once a child genius singer is a grand daughter of another veteran D K Pattammal. Music runs in her blood and her high pitched and fast paced numbers left everyone else breathless except herself!!

P Unnikrishnan also started his career in his childhood and has carved a niche for himself with a good medley of Telugu, Tamil Krithis and Hindi Bhajans. He is also a well known playback singer in Tamil film world. I only wish most singers would sing more Purandara dasa’s songs and not just make a ‘last song salute’ to the great composer in their concerts.

The last evening was spent listening to another concert albeit of a different variety but entertaining equally, nevertheless.

It was the SPB , the leading playback singer of south Indian films and Hindi as well, giving an evening of enchanting film hits at Kamarajar Arangam auditorium to the orchestration of a famous band called Lakshman sruthi. The tickets were sponsored by my Company and we colleagues attended the event en masse. Mostly the hit numbers of Kamalahasan and Rajanikant movies of 80’s were the mainstay.

He encouraged young female co-singers with him on the stage and lamented the present trends of vulgar films and their ‘music -without- values’ too!( If one movie was called ‘kuththu’ and the others were even called ‘pokkiri’ and ‘Dishoom’ etc) .

He did not forget to mention MSV, Ilayaraja et al for their contributions but he forgot to sing any songs from Telugu and Kannada from his 36,ooo strong repertoire…All in all, an evening well spent…

Most concerts are pricey and very few of them are free, if at all. Tickets to these December concerts don’t come cheaper than Rs 50 to 100 a piece. Many outsiders and a few foreigners also visit Chennai in this season. Such is the name and fame of this annual festival of music.

The rasikas throng to the ‘advance booking’ counters much in advance and the cheaper tickets are already sold out if you decide late and reach the venue at the last minute!

The snacks are expensive at the sabha cafeteria and you may well spend an equal amount of a ticket fare for a filling snack. You see the usual crowd of well-fed senior citizens, the Iyer ‘uncles’ and ‘Maamis’ who make up for more than 50% of all rasikas tucking into steaming Idlis, crisp dosas , bondas and of course, filter coffee busily before and after the concerts . Sometimes, good snacks get sold out much before the tickets do… …

Well, they aren’t called ‘rasikas’ for nothing, you know..;)

Most auditoria are air-conditioned in Chennai as they need to be. But that is not to say there will be sufficient air conditioning all the time in all the halls…I keep asking the organisers what’s wrong with their AC and mostly get an embarrassed smile in return.

Then there are chatters…I mean people are only ‘human’, I realize that. An occasional enquiry or confirmation of a ‘raga’ with neighbours or even to know when the ‘last bus will leave’ is acceptable enough, but one wishes it would stop at that.

But no, some are compulsory talkers and they don’t even do it in whispers.

It is so exasperating…Why don’t they put on a CD and chat away at home, if that is what they want?

Then there are guys who won’t switch off their mobile phones or even bother to put them in ‘silent mode’…The mobiles take sadistic pleasure in ringing at the most awkward times too… It is rather unfortunate if you are seated next to such insensitive nerds.

I shush them all the time, but not always successfully.

Well, it is an imperfect world, so who am I complaining with?

Few more concerts like those of Madurai TN Seshagopalan, TV Shankaranarayanan and Ramani are in the offing and I am planning to make the most of it…

Singing off on this note…sorry, ‘signing’ off, I mean!!


3 responses to “DECEMBER –IS MUSIC TO MY EARS!

  1. Enjoy yourself.I envy you.Bangalore is not so active as Chennai in this regard.Strange.Karnataka has given its name to this genre of music.One would have expected Karnataka to dominate.But the compositions are mostly in Telugu and it is in Tamil speaking Chennai that Carnatic music flourishes the most and gets the largest discerning audiences.At Bangalore, I make do with Worldspace Satellite radio.The “Shruthi Channel” yields Carnatic Music 24 hours a day.But listening to the radio can’t beat a live performance.Perhaps I will have to wait for retirement till I am able to enjoy it like you.In the meantime I take satisfaction in my son’s singing.He has undergone an eight year training regime and still continues with full encouragement from all of us.Ask for a casette of his when you visit me next.I will share the casette (or CD if you prefer) with you.He brought one out of his own last year.RegardsGV

  2. hey b’lore guy…me from b’lore too..if u are on orkut…check me out…mamatha rao is the name…and u into tennis?…tennis open starts on jan first …another “it happens only in chennai”

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