Chennai Music Season Part I

February 10, 2008 at 4:27 am Leave a comment

The early rays of the sun in Chennai provide a startling contrast to the gray skies of the midwestern winters. The pleasant sounds of the early morning hustle and bustle sound like music to the ears of an NRI who is accustomed to be woken up in the middle of a still silence by the none to friendly beep of an alarm clock.

A good morning such as this, readies one for a trip to the Sabhas in Chennai offering a musical treat for a two week stretch in the month of December.

The music season exerience begins in Europe itself. While waiting for the last leg of the long trip to India at any transit point in Europe,  it is not uncommon to observe parents taking their children to Chennai to give them a first hand cultural immersion. There is the occasional NRI Bharatanatyam exponent who makes an annual pilgrimage to India during the ‘season’.  Conversations regarding the plans of visitors get heard even as the flight get announced and passengers make their way sleepily towards the Jumbo that is waiting patiently to  carry a plane load of passengers, some of whom are musically inclined.

The taste of the aeroplane food is fresh in one’s mind as one heads towards the  Music  Academy beating the morning rush  hour traffic. Yes, to get to the Academy by 8:30 in the morning, one does need to encounter the morning traffic. Vehicles  of all shapes, sizes, capacities vie for the first place in front of the traffic light in order to make a dart as soon as the light turns green.

The Music Academy is the oldest of the Music Sabhas. The current year marked the 81st year  of the Music Academy’s Annual Conference and Concerts. It is mind blowing to note  that  what started as a musical meeting of minds 80 years ago is  still going on. And going on it is, on a scale of unbelievable proportions. There are concerts and events happening in two different  venues within the Music Academy. The day starts of with a devotional music, usually performed by a group at 8 AM. The Academic session featuring lecture demonstrations comes next at  8:30. These happen in the smaller auditorium or the mini-hall. The main hall hosts its  first concert of the day at 9:15 AM; then on it is concert after concert till the closing hours of the night. 

Parallel to this, is the food operation that happens in the canteen in the backyard of the Academy. Menu highlights are clearly notated on the blackboard that greets visitors. Hygenically prepared aromatic food is served at very reasonable prices and is often a highlight of the music season. It is common to see concert patrons seated in the canteen enjoying the food as well as the concert that gets played through the speakers at a tasteful decibel level. The sound system at the Academy and the availability of the music at various places in the venue is to be complimented. It is not uncommon to see non-concert-patrons make a line for the food at various  points in the day!

And  there are wares for people to purchase in the hallways. Many known labels set up their stalls and sell music  recordings, books and  other items such as sruti  boxes and electronic tamburas. The Music Academy sells its own publications. The stall that is the biggest draw is one where tickets for evening concerts are sold, for those that have not gotten s eason passes to the ticketed concerts. Sometimes the lines resemble airline  checkin lines.

What  is most striking about the hallway is the wall of fame where portraits of sangeeta kalanidhis of yesteryears are displayed. The title Sangita Kalanidhi, literally means — ‘isaichellvam’ or the wealth of music. This is a title that gets awarded to a person each year, based on a lifetime of accomplishments in the field of music. Some of the legendary names of yesteryears stare out  of portraits on the walls. It  is intersesting to imagine that  they must have once walked the same halls, in an era when t hey learned music without modern day amenities such as recordings, streaming audio, video and  the like. A stunning contrast to this stream of thought strikes you as you observe signs that  flaunt the availability of a few  hundred hours of Karnatic Music and an ipod for more  than thirtythousand  rupees!

Entry filed under: Indian Classical Music, NRI World. Tags: , , , .

The indispensable cell phone Chennai Music Season Part II

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