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Nit-picky in Chennai

Nit-picky in Chennai
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First Published: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 09 47 PM IST

Unplugged: High technology is a rare sight in Chennai’s auditoria. Ganesh Muthu / Mint
Unplugged: High technology is a rare sight in Chennai’s auditoria. Ganesh Muthu / Mint
Updated: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 09 47 PM IST
By the time this column appears in print, the December music season in Chennai will have warmed up to a pleasant bright orange, reaching a white-hot intensity roughly by Christmas. It’s a great time to think of all the joy in the world—and all the added joy that would accrue if these pet peeves would somehow vanish overnight:
Unplugged: High technology is a rare sight in Chennai’s auditoria. Ganesh Muthu / Mint
The sing-along seniors:It often happens that, as a musician starts the first word of a song, a happy murmur of recognition spreads through the audience; I have murmured thus myself, on occasion. Sometimes, though, this will be drowned out by the elderly lady (or gentleman) just behind you, who will go one step further and begin to match the musician word for word. This elderly gentleman (or lady) will be impervious to hastily shot dirty looks and, unconscious of their own volume, will see the song through to completion. Such singers of even half-decent calibre are distraction enough; so beware, then, the truly tone-deaf.
Sunshine: In my mind, the music season—Maargazhi, as it is known in Tamil—is also a rainy one. I imagine large puddles of rainwater outside auditoriums in the evenings, mornings of imminent rain gathering over the horizon, and afternoons of very watery sunshine. It seems to hardly matter that Chennai doesn’t really get that much rain in December. Somehow, mentally, that association has been made, and a few days of strong sunshine can prove a real mood-killer.
Stone-age sound equipment:A Carnatic music record label executive recently started trying to describe to me the microphones and sound set-ups in most auditoriums. But he gave up and instead settled for an eloquent wince. It is a rare concert where, even after a sound check, the artist does not need to look offstage, gesture for a technician’s attention, request for the bass to be tweaked, and recoil at the subsequent shrill whistle. Sometimes a concert can run its entire 3 hours with the percussion too loud or the violin too soft; once it happened because the technician set his equipment up, saw the concert begin, and then simply walked away.
The inability to be in two places at once:Well, not really a peeve, more just a constraint of the space-time continuum—but one that proves annoying when your two favourite singers are performing at the same time, at opposite ends of the city.
Awful auditoriums:Twice I have been in concert halls where the power has suddenly gone out in the middle of a particularly complex raga essay by a singer. Many times, I have been in halls that could have been designed for concerts only by a sadist of an architect—long, narrow spaces where a seat even at the halfway point will give you no view, but where ill-placed speakers will instead shred your eardrums by way of compensation. Just as many times, I have been to venues that have grandly designated themselves as “X Hall” or “Y Auditorium”, only to find an acoustic fiasco that is slightly bigger than my living room. That audiences still fill these venues shows only how much they love the artists who perform there.
Write to Samanth Subramanian at raagtime@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jan 08 2009. 09 47 PM IST
More Topics: Maargazhi | Chennai | Singer | Lounge |