The Annual December Music Season of Chennai

There are some people who think that Carnatic Music, the traditionally represented music of South India is in decay. They base this on observations of the “popular” youth culture of today which has been dominated by western music, pop music and film music. Even if they grudgingly acknowledge that Carnatic Music has not completely gone away, they still try to hold on to the view that classical music is for an older generation and not for the young or the young at heart. But the truth is that not only is Carnatic Music very much alive and kicking, but is also spreading its wings both at home and across the globe, catching the fancy of a younger generation in that process.

As they say “nearer the temple, farther away from God” (of those living in a street that has a temple, the broader meaning on the lines of “familiarity breeds contempt”), while in the very epicenter of Carnatic Music – Chennai, there may have been a temporary dip in interest in Shastriiya Sangeetham a decade or so back when the novelty of ILaiyaraaja’s lilting and usually folk/fusion-oriented film music captured the fancy of a whole generation, the very migration of people from this state to other parts of India and abroad, especially the US ensured that even such a drop in numbers of Thamizh people in Thamizhnaadu learning Carnatic Music was more than made up by the numbers of Tamilians who moved up North or out of India since their unflinching zeal in encouraging their children to learn this art form ensured its survival and growth.

Chennai, the city that has been historically anointed with the titles – “Gateway to the South”, “Bastion of Conservatism” etc. plays host to an annual cultural event that is unequalled anywhere in the world. Every December (thru January), it celebrates in grand style a Music Festival that has hordes of artists and Rasikas (connoisseurs) descending on the city using every available means of transport, from far (across the continents) and near to experience the enthralling performance of a galaxy of star musicians and that of budding talent too.

With choc-a-block of kutcheris packing the more traditional compositions of the Trinity of Carnatic Music (Thyagaraja Swamy, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri) as well as those of others like Swati Tirunal, Gopalakrishna Bharathi, Ooththukkaadu Venkatasubbaiyer, Papanasam Sivan, Subramanya Bharathi etc. to the (just-concluded) offbeat “THE OTHER FESTIVAL“, Chennai witnesses a variety of music (and dance and art) events at this time of the year. So, if you are interested in attending live concerts, you can’t afford to miss this season in Madras. Come to Chennai and take a dip, nay, immerse yourself. Choices include the Bay of Bengal and the ocean called music (Sangeetha Saagaram) :-).

(image source:

3 Comments so far

  1. Nagesh Kumar (unregistered) on December 16th, 2006 @ 1:00 pm


    I have already talked about Chennai audience behaviour on Lavanya’s post.

    Here is something on the artistes themselves.

    Most of the front-line artistes in Carnatic music nowadays are zipping from one kutcheri to the other on a continual basis in this month. Many of them sound strained and exhausted in some kutcheris these days. Believe me, I have attended many in this month.

    Well, no one can sing for 3 hours daily for a month and not be exhausted too. That is exactly the point. Why should ‘all the sabhas have all the artists’ going round the season?

    Look at the advts.

    Karthik Fine arts, Music academy, Narada, Krishna, Thyaga brahma, brahma gana sabha etc etc .You have almost every frontline artist giving kutcheris at all the venues one day or the other in the same month.

    It is simply very repetitive. You may say it gives more chance to catch one or the other kutcheri of the same artist if you miss it elsewhere.
    That is the reason artistes sound exhausted and cannot do justice to the concerts. The vocal quality falls and variety suffers.

    In Bangalore from where I hail from the occasions for kutcheris are restricted to only ramotsavam season and there are about 3 sabhas/ venues there and this enables the artistes to give good vocal quality and variety and for a longer duration too.

    This is nothing but crass commercialization of divine carnatic music. You make more money in this season, so you sing more, more and MORE!
    The various sabhas are only pandering to the greed of the artistes, regardless of the quality of the ‘product’ by ‘hiring’ them through out the month!!

    Mostly atrists from Chennai are able to give 3 to 3.5 hours concert with good vocal quality, strength and even variety in Bangalore but not so in Chennai itself!

    Sadly, purandara dasa krithis are being sidelined or not sung at all, even by the ‘famous disciple of te legenday MLV’ who was instrumental in making Dasa’a padas as they are caled very famous in Non kannada speaking states.

    Mostly ‘Murugan songs’, ‘Alaiypaythes’ and ‘kurai onrum illai’ etc get repeated as the audience here never seems to tire of it, though hearing it from different artists…
    Some one somewhere has to raise a voice against the poor voice of the strained artistes and I have done my bit here..
    Hopefully the rasikas will get enlightened about this issue before long…



  2. Commenter (unregistered) on December 18th, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    This may be off-topic, but why aren’t Chennai Metrobloggers blogging about the film fest? There are 5 posts on the music festival.

  3. thennavan (unregistered) on December 20th, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

    Nagesh Kumar, thanks for the long and insightful comment and looks like it has been so good that my fellow Metroblogging colleague Lavanya has also paraphrased your comment in her post on the music season following mine. Thanks once again :-).

    Commenter, I am not a die-hard FF buff and so have asked around in our group. You can also write and I’ll post it as a guest post. What say you? :-)

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