Monday, 9 January 2012

The ecstasy—and some agonies

By Bala Shankar
The December music season is not far from an ecstasy drug. We reach a high during the festival and post-festival brings with it the withdrawal symptoms. People like me cope with it by writing or talking about it! Here are a few general takeaways from 2011 edition:
  1. Lec-dems seem to have finally got their due. Many of the programmes were well attended—and by earnest audiences. It is time the sabhas developed a master plan for their lec-dems rather than random themes and random presenters. There are plenty of knowledge seekers who can be consulted. Presenters need to be prepare professionally. Some of them barely touch the topic, as they like hearing their voices more than fulfilling their task.
  2. RTPs (ragam-tanam-pallavis) of convuluted or restrictive ragas continue. With the possible exception of Kosalam and Pasupatipriya, all ragas have been coronated at the RTP altar. I am not convinced of the validity of this quest. The R and T of most of these leave a lot to be desired. They are either composed of rasanubhavas without structure - only phrases strung together (for example, a recent RTP of Mand), or structured but clinical and scale-oriented (as in an RTP of Sivaranjani last year). In both cases, there is a sense of incompleteness. The musicians can do better to challenge themselves with the tala structures (including eduppu) and rendering trikalam without fumbling and competent niravals.
  3. Two-hour concerts tend to be frustrating, especially if they have 30-minute tani avartanams. For a detailed presentation with variety and depth, 2 hrs 30 minutes is a must, perhaps even more. Mridangists dont want to play ball to keep the tani crisp. With tani avartanams becoming tavil avartanams, even senior mridangists cannot seem to resist the temptation of the gallery and are often the culprits. There should be a cap of about 10% of the concert time for tani. In fact, there would be more interest in two short tanis, in two different talams and kalapramanams. The likes of GNB, MS, Semmangudi, and DKJ used to have about 20 songs in their concert. The number is not so important, but offered the variety and diversity. One is therefore unhappy with 4 or 5 song concerts, with a 45 minute raga alapana of the main song, sometimes replete with vocal exercises, extended from daily sadhakam.
  4. Venue standards continue to be deplorable in many cases. This is the topic of my next piece.

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