December Music Season: What You Said

Firstly, thanks to all of you who wrote detailed emails as well as comments on the Music season. Secondly, a look at what some of you had to say:

Nagesh Kumar thinks artistes perform to the point of exhaustion during the music season and that such commercialization takes away the shine from their performance

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.

Many of you were irritated with the behaviour of the audience:

Thad.E.Ginathom, whose comment was so full of passion that I did not know which part to leave out and therefore reproduced in full, says:

Chennai’s classical music audience are just badly behaved.

They wander in late, and push past people to get to their chosen seats (of course, the organisers let them in late: they are not asked to wait until the end of the song).

They sit and chat. A few murmered comparisons of raga recognition hurts no-one. Even a quick enquiry as to whether one might still be ok for the last bus doesn’t hurt — we are human, after all. But these people sit and talk, and talk and talk. And very often they don’t even bother to do it quietly. And very often it is the older ones who should know better, and who have to talk louder because they are deafer. Why, oh why, if they want to chat to music, can’t they sit at home with the CD player?

2/3 of the audience rushes for the exit as soon as they get a hint that the thani (percussion solo) is about to start. It doesn’t, of course, occur to them that the other one third want to listen in peace, without their view being blocked and their feet being trampled. No; because they say they ‘do not understand the thani’ they cannot stand to let their ears be sullied by it.

Then there are the real enthusiasts. Who insist on letting their neighbours know that their interpretation of the raga is at least as good as the violinist’s. No: I go to a concert to listen to those on stage, not my fellow audience. Quite often these people are out of tune anyway, and, should they decide to put talam, they are frequently not only wrong, but off beat as well.

Even those who can put talam (great for guiding those of us who get lost) are often too enthusiastic, the slap of hands against thighs drowning out the music. Guys: adi tala. It has three beats ‘with sound’ and four without, OK? Not eight loud claps…

Then there are the enthusiastic parents. The women who think that the concert is a music class for their girls; question and answer session for every note. The men who want to show that, not only is their son learning mridangam, but they also understand so, son, get this lecture on what the mridangist is playing just now

Oh, I could go on. And On. And on. And regularly do on music sites, where many a fellow Chennai sufferer has been known to agree with me.

And I haven’t even started about mobile phones….

Nagesh Kumar also had a few things to say on the topic:

Regarding rasikas who pay thru their noses to get in here, quite a few of them are a noisy lot and speak in high decibels (like most madrasis)regardless of any indignant stares and even angry gestures from neighbours. They spoil the mood of the listeners with chit-chatting incessantly through out the concerts.

Organisers don’t want to know about it too….
They have got that day’s collection, nothing else matters.

Mobile phone menace is more in Chennai and unlike Bangaloreans they don’t talk in whispers, low voices or go away to a corner at the least. No one keeps their phone in silent or vibrate mode.

How can you guys be so insensitive in a concert?

When one complains about bad audience behaviour, someone in that audience is bound to ask, how else do you protest when the artiste is trying to overshadow accompanists?

Nastikan says:

Walking is about the politest way that the audience can display their negative response to the artist. I’ve never done in it myself, but during an interminable self-choreographered self-indulgent Valli Sangam-poem-varnam, the only thing stopping me was the bulk of the mamis on either side.

Ganesh wonders about some of the rules that the organizers enforce:

There are some hitches though in the rules that they put in. Though the hall authorities do not stop, they put up a warning not to bring in small kids/babies inside the auditorium. Not sure of its purpose. The child has to grow listening to all this in order to get attracted.

Ganesh, I think such rules probably apply to very young children who are unlikely to have the patience to sit quietly though a concert.

In all of these, the underlying thread points to the insensitivity of either the audience or the artistes or the organizers. One is tempted to wonder if that is the problem that needs fixing.

On a more constructive note, how can this insensitivity be addressed? What do you think?

3 Comments so far

  1. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on December 18th, 2006 @ 11:45 pm

    (woops… my adi talam above adds up to seven beats. No wonder I was such a bad mridangam student [BLUSH])

    What’s to be done? This is a tough one. The Sabha organisers are hardly going to start antagonising their audiences: without the season money I guess they won’t exist long.

    It has been known for a musician to stop in mid alapana and request an audience member to allow him to get on with the raga without the person joining in — but I think this happens so rarely it becomes legend! I heard that, only recently, one senior mridangist berated the departing audience for not allowing him to get on with his thani in peace, and singers have been known to request respect for the mridangist.

    Education is the answer. Someone once said it could be possible to change the world in one generation (or something like that…). Musicians, in their role as teachers, have the opportunity to impress on their students proper standards of behaviour. But perhaps some of them don’t think it important themselves.

    I am very much afraid that many of the offenders are just too old to learn: and here is a tragedy — audiences just might become better behaved when these hummers and mutterers have died off, but with them will die a wealth of knowledge and. where many of them are concerned, a true love of music. At least few of them seem to have mobile phones: they leave that to the younger generation.

    Some publicity would help: the newspapers are full of The Season just now, why can’t they take this on? The discussions on internet forums ‘are preaching to the converted’ usually…

    At least, so far, I have never heard anyone defend the behaviour. It is always possible that a certain person will come along here soon and tell us how it is part of true tamil culture and if we don’t like it we should go live somewhere else ;)

  2. Arun Prasad (unregistered) on December 19th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    Yeah, spot on about the audience during the concerts. The other KJ Yesudas stopped his concert midway when a cellphone went off. He said if you don’t know to keep the phone in silent mode, then you don’t deserve to keep a phone and called those who had no understanding of the code of conduct during concerts as “Nayana suniyam”.

    Talking about artiste burnout, I am really sure that is the case. Going through the list of about 40 sabhas, I did find the top artistes doing about 12 concerts in 30-40 days timeframe (given that some start mid Nov and some finish mid Jan). Given the fact that they get paid very less and this is the time of the year that they can make up for the rest of the year, I don’t blame them. Some of the artistes have learnt to handle this well.

  3. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on December 20th, 2006 @ 12:55 am

    KJY has just risen again in my estimation :) !

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