Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Music Season 2008 - Chennai

So, here I am starting off a new blog in 2009...

Whats fresh in my mind - The just concluded December 2008 carnatic music season in Chennai. I am attending this event after a gap 12 years. It did bring back lot of my childhood memories - almost every year the Madras trip happened in December with my grandfather Sri V.S. Gomathisankara Iyer. The big difference now is the - 26 hr flight half way across the world as opposed to the 9 hr Pandiyan Express ride from Madurai.

The number of sabhas that have sprung up in all these years are mind boggling. There is a sabha in every nook and corner of the city now. There are at least 2 concerts a day in every sabha and it can get very challenging to pick and choose; especially if you have 2 different venues hosting leading musicians on the same day.

It was much easier for me though. I was pretty clear on what I wanted from this music season - attend as many Sanjay Subrahmanyan concerts as possible, catch-up with TM Krishna at NGS and Music Academy concerts and a listen to a few more artists - veterans and up-coming ones.

I attended 15 of the 18 and odd concerts of Sanjay this season. Summing him up is straightforward - class(professionalism), depth(knowledge), brilliance(execution). To the extent of my knowledge there are/have been few artists of this caliber.

TM Krishna delivered every bit of what was expected from him. The 2 concerts that I attended were good. A little more attention to execution will make him better.

Other good musicians (vocalist) I listened to in this season are Ranjani & Gayatri, Vijay Siva, and Neivelli Santhanagopalan. Ranjani & Gayatri have come a long way from when I heard them a few years back during their US tour . On a lighter note, during one of Ranjani & Gayathri's concert I saw this elderly gentleman sitting a few seats next to me who was literally "conducting" the concert. Towards the end of the concert I couldn't help but to notice him pointing to his watch and prompting the singers to move on to the next piece. At the end of that piece one of the sisters (I guess it was Gayatri) posed an question to the audience asking if it was OK to sing another short piece. This gentleman quickly interrupted and signalled to end the concert. The singers acknowledged with "Mangalam" much to the disappointment of the audience. I later learnt that the gentleman next to me was Ranjani & Gayatri's father. I did walk away from the concert quite happy with the performance but kept wondering what effect will such "micro management" have on the ability of the artists to improvise elaborate and sing to their intent and content.

Listening to Sri T.V. Sankaranarayanan brought back memories of listening to him during his prime in the late 80's and the 90's.

Sri TN Seshagopalan was a big disappointment and unfortunately he is getting consistent with disappointing. I do not want to comment any further. But it is really sad to see such a big name vetran failing to impress.