Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Open Season

By V Ramnarayan

Music is in the air. With the December season around the corner, the excitement is inescapable, though for a sizable minority of enthusiasts the thrill is in anticipating the food feast in store in the makeshift cafeterias that will spring up at all the sabhas. In fact, in the culinary sense alone can the music festival any longer be described as the December season. The non-stop entertainment actually began in October.

“In a marvel of logistics, time and resource management, they (the organisers) detonate an explosion of rhythm and raga razzmatazz that leaves whole suburban populations stunned. Their weaponry? Antiquated amplification systems whose noise levels create world records on the Richter scale.” This is what I wrote more than a decade ago. Most of it is still true, with a handful of honourable exceptions among the sabhas paying greater attention to such minor details as acoustics. Today’s musicians are of course a tech-savvy lot with their own sophisticated sound systems, while young—and not-so-young—listeners are even more so, and relay not only video and audio content, but their reviews as well instantly, to be analysed threadbare in cyberspace. It will hardly surprise anyone if reviews are soon flashed on screens at the very venues of concerts while they are taking place.

I also said, “The early morning lec-dems investigate in minute detail such compellingly seminal topics as "The Influence of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on the Development of the Mela Karta Scheme" or "Rap, Raga and Rachmaninov: Are They Y2K Compliant?" I was of course indulging in the favourite pastime of the hack writer—exaggerated wordplay to hopefully attract the frivolous sections of the reading public. Some of the topics continue to confound, though the learned insist that the academic sessions have actually been watered down over the years to cater to popular taste. They must be right: even I took part in one such morning session a couple of years ago!

Every season starts with a resolve not to attend the concerts this time: after all we do hear the same musicians through the year, most of them have sore throats anyway during the season, (though the condition does not affect the likes of Ravikiran, Shrinivas and Umayalpuram Sivaraman), and it seems the canteen owners are getting more and more complacent by the year, anyway one can listen to the Charsur recording soon and so on.

Once the action begins, however, the call of ragam-tanam-pallavi (or rather asoka halwa—vazhathandu bajji-pulisevai) proves irresistible as ever. You brace yourself to the rigours of rasanubhava battling your friendly neighbor with his cellphone conversation, Kutcheri Buzz rustling, wrong talam keeping and vocal accompaniment to the on-stage vidwan. Open Season!

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