Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A sabha-hopper’s guide to enjoying the music season

By Ganesh V
  • Stop by at these sabhas in Madras, for each one of them has something unique to offer you
  • Music Academy – the place where it all started, 85 winters ago. The pre-eminent sabha in Madras; a rich sense of history. The digital archive here has several thousand hours of recorded music, including live concerts of many stalwarts. A must-do.
  • Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha – located in Triplicane, this is the oldest sabha in the city. Again, a rich sense of history. More than a century old.
  • Kalakshetra, near Besant Nagar – all performances are conducted in the koothambalam (a Malayalam word for ‘performance arena’). With its greenery, fresh air and open spaces, it transports you even before the music begins.
  • The Mylapore Fine Arts Club – for its old-world ambience. The set-up is basic, yet very comfortable. This is how Carnatic music is actually meant to be imbibed.
  • Vani Mahal (Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha), Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and Narada Gana Sabha – all of them offer an excellent line-up of musicians, comfortable seating and very good acoustic systems.
  • Grab a copy of The Hindu’s special supplement on 1st December  and Kannan’s booklet of concert schedules. Both are invaluable ready reckoners. Kannan’s booklet is available at the Nalli Silk Store outlet adjacent to Panagal Park in T. Nagar and at his residence (which, I hope, can be traced through Google).
  • Pick out the artists you want to listen to or watch and look up their concert timings in advance. It pays to plan ahead for the next three or four days.
  • Try to attend at least one concert each of T.N. Krishnan (violin), R.K. Srikantan, R. Vedavalli, Parassala Ponnammal, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy (all vocal) and N. Ramani (flute). These are my favourites. They belong to the old guard and have been upholding traditional values and tenets of Carnatic music. Their music has a distinct old-world flavour, which I find charming.
  • Among the younger lot, don’t miss U. Shrinivas (an absolute wizard with the mandolin), T.M. Krishna (vocal), Malladi Brothers (vocal), Sanjay Subrahmanyan (vocal) and Bombay Jayashri (vocal).
  • At every sabha you visit, try to sample the culinary fare at the canteen. Trust me, you will rejoice!
  • Treat the traditional South Indian filter coffee with respect. The best way to show respect is to consume at least three cups of this heavenly brew everyday.
When in doubt, ask a local for directions to a particular locality or sabha. The denizens of Madras are friendly and more to the point, quite good with directions.

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