Under unique circumstances we have brought out a unique volume this time—combining two issues of Sruti for the months of April and May. The corona Covid-19 virus has been playing havoc around the world and we are no exception. Even as we were working to meet the monthly deadline for the April issue, we were taken unawares when the lockdown was declared and section 144 was swiftly imposed in Tamil Nadu. Although completing the work was paramount in our minds, we realised that as responsible citizens we had to follow the government directives and appeals. As safety and well being are top on the priority list, we have all been homebound to ensure that we follow the rules, and play our part in containing the spread of the deadly virus. With the termination of public transport, curbs on commuting to work, closure of offices and the printing press, we were unable to complete work on the April issue, nor print nor post it to you last month. Working from home is not that easy as the process is centralised in the office, but everyone has risen to the occasion and we have tried our best to bring the magazine to you under unprecedented circumstances.
This time you can read your Sruti online, and we hope you will enjoy the experience. We present a centenary tribute by Shailaja Khanna to one of the most popular musicians of our time—Pandit Ravi Shankar, a rare artist who won fans worldwide with his music and charisma. Though he has been featured in our magazine, we felt that an article about the maestro would be a fitting tribute to a good friend of Sruti on his 100th birthday. We have a special feature on veteran Hindustani violinist N. Rajam who, although she hails from the south, has mastered the Hindustani medium and blazed a trail. She turned 81 this March. Another versatile musician from the south who has made a mark in world music and collaborated with jazz musicians too, is vidushi Ramamani from Bengaluru. Read also about a fine aesthete belonging to the same city, a gracious connoisseur of the arts, nonagenarian Vimala Rangachar. There are interesting articles on three renowned organizations celebrating their golden jubilee, namely, the Bhakta Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mumbai, the Karnataka Ganakala Parishat, and the Visakha Music Academy. And a few concluding reviews of the season (better late than never). The spread of the Covid-19 virus has affected the entire world and art is no exception. It has had an impact on everyone— including the artist.
Corona and the performing arts are at cross purposes. The pandemic dictates confinement, isolation, and social distancing, while the performing arts revel in communication, interaction, appreciation, and a twoway flow of energies between the artist and the onlooker. The long lockdown period has had a tremendous impact on the cultural ecosphere. Sabhas have had to close down, which has deprived them of their revenue though they have to maintain the halls from their corpus. As programmes in halls have come to a standstill, it has impacted the livelihood and creativity of artists. Performances are now flooding the social media and digital platforms all over, which provides musicians, dancers and actors, opportunities to share their art and promote themselves, but probably doesn’t add to their coffers. Folk, nagaswaram-tavil artists, and the supporting freelance artists have been hard hit for their livelihood. From around Pongal time till July is a fertile period for folk artists when they are busy with rituals and overnight performances. But the pandemic, the lockdown and social distancing norms have put a stop to these and they are unable to make both ends meet.
So is the case with nagaswaram and tavil artists as they cannot perform in temples and weddings which are their main source of livelihood. Stage decor, sound and light artists, make-up, costume designers and all their assistants have been rendered jobless as they cannot earn if there are no programmes. From the confines of their homes, several artists have been performing for fundraisers for the needy. Arts organisations are also playing their role in artists’ welfare. In such a situation, the Central and State governments should also reach out to artists and provide assistance in cash and kind.
As the world battles the Covid-19 virus, it is best to stay at home and follow rules. Let us all sing in praise of the corona frontline warriors and applaud their selfless service. Meanwhile. keep reading the Sruti blog, watch our YouTube channel, and visit our Facebook and Instagram. Let’s all hope for the best.