The Academy is bustling. A short walk away, Narada Gana Sabha is greeted with its signature throngs, and the traffic jam on T.T.K. Road is indicative of another season in full flow. The din is overwhelming, and a few regulars find their escapes: for some, it is a quaint house in Royapettah where, lit only by lamps, the concert’s melody remains pure. For others, it is a single screen in Sathyam Theatre, this time, with the tambura’s drone echoing off its walls. The ARTery and Madrasana offer innovative presentations, a stone’s throw away from Margazhi’s humble, century-old roots. The spaces are far from conventional but tend to bring back a style of music that we, as an audience, have probably forgotten.
“Over time there has been a drastic change in the way artists present their art. The current prosceniumlike auditorium setting is not how a concert used to be presented. Instead, it used to be a chamber performance—a temple, may be, with no amplification,” the founder of the ARTery, Ramanathan Iyer, explains.
The entrance of the auditorium, a product of Westernisation, he says, has stripped the art form of ambience, acoustics, and aesthetics. So when Ramanathan Iyer returned from the West, a career in engineering leaving his creative passions unsatisfied, he swore to restore all three. Taking ownership in 2012 of a dilapidated house coowned by vocalist S. Sowmya’s family, he refurbished the property with a solitary vision—”to present performance arts as they were meant to be presented”. “Our mission is simple: curate creativity. This could be with music, with dance, with theatre, with comedy. And boundless creativity, free of the shackles of age, seniority, and overt and opulent presentation,” he says.
The space, he says, has perfectly dovetailed into that initial mission and as more city dwellers began to crave for what he calls the unadulterated arts, a corporate, blue collar man decided that he, too, was in search of a greater artistic experience.
“Artists have given their heart and soul for their art form. As an organiser, I felt the need to elevate the stage to respect both the artist and the audience. It is an intimate experience—thirsting for a pristine quality that honours the art at hand,” says Madrasana founder Mahesh Venkateswaran.
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