In Chennai’s pleasant December and January evenings, music lovers go sabha-hopping, for this is the Carnatic music concert season.
Since 1927, music sabhas or clubs have conducted Carnatic music concerts, starting around 10 December. Carnatic music lovers from across the world flock to Chennai to watch their favourite artistes perform live in the Madras music festival, which lasts around six weeks.
Many artistes attract a following of dedicated fanatics. Samyuktha Jayaraman, an aspiring singer, does not miss a single concert by vocalist T.M. Krishna. Her sister Sharanya Jayaraman is a Sanjay Subrahmanyan fan. Their mother Gayatri Jayaraman is a Bombay Jayashri loyalist. “Settling on which concert to go to becomes a painful task when everyone in the family has different tastes,” exclaims 26-year-old Samyuktha.
In the 1960s and 1970s, artistes like M.L. Vasanthakumari, M. Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam and D.K. Pattammal attracted an audience mostly comprising middle-aged and elderly patrons, often referred to as “maamas” and “maamis”. The current generation of singers draws a crowd of young, middle-aged and old patrons alike, because these artistes experiment freely with renditions while sticking to traditional styles.
Leading sabhas like The Music Academy, Mylapore Fine Arts Club and Narada Gana Sabha usually have full-day programmes. Mornings are devoted to lecture demonstrations, while afternoons see young and upcoming singers performing. In the evenings, the big names of the Carnatic music circuit take centre stage.
Music concerts (also called kutcheris) last anywhere from 90 minutes to 4 hours. Concerts are sometimes based on specific themes—sometimes all the songs are in Tamil, or are of a particular poet, or are even pieces based on Hindustani ragas. Every concert is remembered by its main piece, which can last up to 45 minutes. In this signature piece, the artiste takes one raga and explores it in depth. The accompanists too get a chance to demonstrate their proficiency with their instruments.
In this year’s music season, many star performers like Subrahmanyan, Jayashri and Visakha Hari have given performances in numerous sabhas. You can also look forward to performances by Krishna (whose concerts have been made free this year), upcoming artistes Abhishek Raghuram, S. Sowmya and the Priya Sisters.
What will it be for you then, the kaapi (filter coffee), Kapi (raga), or both?
Daily event schedules are available in The Hindu and on various sabha websites. Schedules are also available on mobile apps for the Chennai Music Season and Kutcheris.com. Tickets are available at the sabha premises; and some sabhas such as the Brahma Gana Sabha also offer online booking. Season tickets are available at the premises of most sabhas.
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