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Rasika in the grip of emotions

Music season is just a month away and one who witnesses the scene is bound to experience Navarasas. V. SUBRAHMANIAM describes...

CARNATIC music rasikas all over the world look forward to this, "The Season" at Chennai. The period is the month of December every year and rolling on to the early part of January. It is then that the city would be awash with concerts — the Annual Music Season. Organisations numbering 50 or more would be holding music concerts some of them up to five a day commencing in the forenoon and concluding around 9 p.m. Nothing much would be heard of some of these organisations during the non-season months. The concerts held in the season runs to hundred in numbers. Perhaps one of the reasons for the hectic music activity in that part of the year is the pleasant weather. Trials to have music festivals during the other months of the year proved unsuccessful as they failed to attract audiences. A scrutiny of the activities during this "run-up" period, culminating in the great musical event of the year reveal many interesting and surprising aspects evoking Nava Rasas (nine shades of emotions).

The season will reach its peak in December and conclude by the middle or end of the succeeding month. Surprisingly the activities for the next festival commence pretty soon by April. The parents start revealing their anxiety to the music teachers under whom their children have commenced their training. They would indicate their eagerness that their children should ascend as many platforms as possible in the coming season. The parents would also indicate that the teachers should take up the responsibility to see that their wards are able to present concerts with all the necessary ingredients. Also the students who have just touched upon the rudiments would be expected to reach concert level. If the teacher fails to achieve this he would be labelled incompetent.

The teacher would teach the student a few varnams, keertanas, etc. and also pattern out the raga alapana sketches, neraval and kalpana swaras and make the student learn them by heart, the same way as learning keertanams so that the students would be ready to present them in concerts. Raga sketches and kalpana swaras as the words themselves connote and neraval are supposed to spring out of the imagination of the performing artiste and traditionally they are not taught this way. The teacher is only to guide the students in this area, and the students have to draw from their imagination after listening to their masters and acquiring an insight into the depth of the raga from learning various compositions in them. Even though the teacher may not be quite inclined to have these aspects of music taught under the mounting pressure from the parent he would be left with no option. The concerts reveal the fact that raga and alapana are tutored.

Now step two of the activity commences. The parents start their run from Sabha to Sabha meeting the secretary and other important persons connected to the organisation. The parents give written applications with the "bio data" of the artiste, cringe, cajole and repeat the visits to the people concerned for a concert during "the Season". The organisers authoritatively tell the parents, "If you want a concert chance for your daughter/son you would have to rope in at least two sponsors and do not expect us to pay any remuneration for the artiste and if at all we may be able to pay only for local conveyance, and you will have to arrange the accompaniments and pay for them." The parents initially a little shocked take it in their stride because they know it is normal in the game. The desire being very strong to achieve as many concerts as possible the parents double the effort to get sponsors. In the case of a budding dance artiste the situation is almost similar. Instead of getting sponsors a donation is paid by the artiste herself to the organisation for a dance recital.

Most of the artistes aiming for a concert the first time would naturally get the junior most slot during the "concert series". Look at their plight. They would be mostly singing to empty halls with only the parents, close relations and perhaps the guru also totalling to not more than ten in number. Neither the young artiste nor the parents are bothered or affected by this. The achievement is the number of concerts performed and is added on to the "bio data" of the artiste for future useThe plight of the few artistes who have been able to create a favourable impression is not very different either. Success and the encomiums naturally kindle the desire in the musician to aim and try for more number of concert opportunities. With their success stories included in their fresh applications the artistes start their run again visiting institutions, their secretaries and presidents for the next round of concerts. This almost desperate pursuit by the artistes has led to the establishment of an unhealthy practice in the field.

The office-bearers of most of the music establishments expect the musicians, irrespective of their level of seniority in the music field, to make applications for concerts. In their eagerness to be on as many concert platforms as possible most of the musicians have also fallen into the habit of applying for concert chances, though some of them may be doing this in spite of their mental resistance. Musicians being invited by sabhas for concerts has almost become a thing of the past. For keeping up their image the organisations have to include prominent, popular artistes who are crowd-pullers and consequent money spinners and hence invitations to give concerts may be extended to them.

A senior "vidwan" was recently heard narrating his experience in this regard. An official of a premier music institution asked him whether he had submitted his application for a concert slot in the December (2001) festival. The annoyed artiste replied that he is not in the habit of submitting applications for concerts and if the institution was keen enough it could approach him. The papers may be necessary for junior and sub-junior artistes but is it right to extend the same stipulation to the seniors also? As persons who are involved in organising concerts they should possess knowledge about senior musicians and the quality of their music. It is part of public relations. The artistes have to share the blame for the present situation as they have doubled their public relations activity and they are after the organisers relieving them of their duty of being in touch with the artistes.

Another disturbing factor is that even premier institutions whose basic tenet is the preservation and encouragement of classical traditions also have begun patterning their festival concert programmes with an eye on the gate collection. As soon as one round of concerts or even one concert is completed in a season the attention of the artistes and also their parents get diverted to the commercial recording companies which are aplenty these days. The recording organisers would agree to record the novice artistes music but would stipulate that the party buy up at least 500 cassettes produced. Unmindful of this the artiste would give the undertaking to pay the sale price of 500 cassettes, buy them and then run about trying to find buyers. The recording company would have made its money for the effort and not make any further marketing effort. The time lapse from the point of time when the artiste started taking music lessons to the point of time of the concert and release of the recording would come to hardly one year if not less. A person who witnesses the scenario of all these mind-boggling activities is sure to pass through all the "Nava rasas" _ nine shades of emotions. The first, "Sringaram", perhaps will not be kindled. "Dheeram" the next Rasa is valour and the witness would be determined to fight all the peculiar happenings but all his valour would vanish as nothing can affect and change the happenings. "Karunyam" or compassion surges through him as he sees the plight of the artistes and their parents pitying them. "Adbhutham" — wonder — is certainly evoked but not the type of wonder one enjoys at witnessing the beauty of the Taj Mahal but perhaps saddened wonder kindling the thought "How can such things be happening!" "Hasyam" — comedy is felt when witnessing the laughable state in which the artistes are placing themselves. "Beebhatsam" is disgust and it is no wonder a person witnessing the scenario will develop utter disgust.

"Bhayam" fright at the state of the affairs and what more is in store for us hereafter. "Roudram" — anger — the situation certainly evokes anger prompting the spectator to resort to fighting to correct unbearable happenings and finally "Shantham" — calmness. After going through the other emotions and realising that things are beyond control and nothing can be done, the perturbed witness would become so mature that he assumes calmness and remains at peace in spite of the turbulence all around.

(The author is a senior disciple of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.)

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