S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Seasonal mamas and mamis

KV Krishnaprasad
With over 100 sabhas and over 300 concerts a day, the Chennai season offers a counter culture relative to urban India today. Along with young music students, teachers, diehard rasikas, and eager foreigners, there are loads of elders – our ‘Mamas and Mamis’. They close their kitchens for a month and help themselves to the delightful canteen food served by Padmanabhan, Gnanambika and the like. Their stories are interesting and their enthusiasm is infectious.
Diehard mamis come to the academy for tickets at 5 am. She sits there even after buying tickets for the popular evening concert - just in case!
There is the nostalgic mama I met - a professor in a Canadian university. I could not have guessed his background, with his veshti costume, his abhorrence of cell phones and his predilection for buses.
There is the peaceloving mama who believes that every single performer out there sings well. When he paid a generous compliment to an evening performer who could not keep a steady note that night (due to the season virus), I started maintaining a safe distance from the mama.
Some are very helpful. When we were being tormented by an obscure ragam chosen by the performer for his bhajan, she volunteered to find it out and tell me the next morning. God bless her!
There are doctorate mamis who come fully armed with reference tomes and song-raga compendiums and jump into intense research the moment the singer utters the first line. They discuss and research and discuss again with identification of the raga their only objective. Pretty oblivious to the rendition itself, and amusing to watch from a distance, they are found singly and also in groups.

Then there is the name-dropping type: ‘Jayashri was telling me the other day that the music was not audible at all from the stage’, TM Krishn’a voice is not Ok, I believe,’ ‘Sanjay asked me to come to the concert early as the traffic was heavy.’
Some enthusiastic mamas keep polling for the best concert of the season. Any argument that tastes differ does not carry any weight with these mamas.
There is a lonely, friendly mami who gives her phone number to every one from her city of Bangalore and asks them to come and visit her. I am a proud recipient of her number.
There is this crooning mama who though in awe of TVS’s singing, launches into a parallel concert. Each one has his/her ways of enjoying the concert(s).
I have stayed away from a talkative mama who attempts to involve you in the hot topic of the day (Anna Hazare, Corruption, Cricket are all fair game). Beware!

Despite their many idiosyncrasies, the common thread of enthusiasm and love for music and all things musical runs strongly through all these mamas and mamis. These are the pillars of the season carrying the torch of nostalgia and unconditional love of music through generations. What will the season be without them? But, all the same, choose your seat wisely if you want to lose yourself in the music!!

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