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Artistes should use social media for community purposes. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
Artistes should use social media for community purposes. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Tweet your love for classical music

Social media may be a powerful platform for promoting our music, says Shubha Mudgal. Why don't we use it?

On the morning of 31 October, the small town of Aundh in Maharashtra’s Satara district geared up for an annual festival of classical music which is currently into its 75th year. Started in 1940 by Gwalior gharana doyen Anant Manohar Joshi, popularly referred to as Antubuwa, the Aundh Sangeet Mahotsava is associated with a pilgrimage-like reverence which makes artistes and music lovers congregate in the small town every year.

Organized initially by Antubuwa on the birth anniversary of his spiritual guru, Swami Shivanand, the festival now also pays tribute to Antubuwa and his illustrious son Gajananrao Joshi, a multi-faceted master of khayal singing and the violin, and guru to a host of leading musicians. There are no flights that can bring jet-setting artistes to Aundh, nor does the town offer luxurious hotel accommodation. The former princely state therefore falls short on all current measures of “development", yet the festival steadfastly continues with its mission of bringing high-quality music to the region’s music lovers. Consequently, entry to all performances remains free of charge; in the past the organizers even provided free boarding and lodging to all listeners who travelled to the Aundh festival. This year, a token charge of 80 for a meal was levied, but lodging remains free even today.

Invited to perform at the festival this year, I travelled to Aundh by road. Through the 150km drive from Pune to Aundh, tweets by music lover and columnist Raja Pundalik (Twitter handle @rajapundalik), kept me informed of the proceedings. Using the hashtag #AundhMusicFest, Pundalik posted live, informing followers of the ragas presented by each artiste and the proceedings, also attaching images of the artistes. A narrative of Pundalik’s tweets has been compiled at Aundh Sangeet Amrut Mahotsav 2015, possibly by another music lover, using a service that permits users to compile timelines from social media.

Even though Pundalik has just about 402 followers, many of whom might not be interested in classical music, the idea of his tweeting live from a 75-year-old festival of hard-core classical music enthuses me. The inherent strengths of platforms like Twitter could well be put to good use, albeit with some customization if required, for the promotion and propagation of art music. Pundalik’s tweets were retweeted by only a few of his followers, but with a larger number of followers also willing to take the trouble to retweet, word about the festival could have reached many more connoisseurs and potential followers of classical music.

All too often, the ivory-towered world of Hindustani classical music, usually given to complaining about the challenges of presenting, promoting and preserving the music in a rapidly changing world, obstinately refuses to empower itself by embracing technology. Presenters who have the funds to hire media managers and PR agencies occasionally make some tepid use of social media, but, by and large, live updates are uncommon.

One would also have to accept that the main stakeholders, the artistes themselves, have often been lethargic in attempting to use social media for community purposes. While most artistes are mobile and smartphone users, the idea of retweeting about an event where they are not featured, or spreading the word about someone else’s music, remains alien to them for the most part. And, I have known highly educated, eminent musicians to have no qualms texting or talking on their mobile phones while someone else’s concert is in progress.

Shubha Mudgal tweets at @smudgal and posts on Instagram as shubhamudgal.

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