Chennai Music Season – Joining the Bandwagon

When Chennai is buzzing with Music season and festive spirit with active kutcheri buzzers  clad in crispy silk and silk cotton sarees with ever fragrant jasmine sporting innovative fashion trends and light weight jewelry, and last not the least, the ever famous catering specials in each venue, can we be left behind?   We are sure to hear the name of  Ganamurthi along with Gnanambika and Mohanam with Mountbatten. Obviously the latter refer to the caterers in the respective venue. As much as concerts, the food served during this season at the venues receives attention, reviews and the media and lovers of music makes sure the caterers are never left behind. Ask a rasika, he will accept the fact that it is easy to find a place in the concert hall than in the canteen at times. Are the restaurant owners in Chennai listening? Here is an interesting article in the Opinion page by J S Raghavan in The Hindu. Very interesting suggestion indeed. Your comments?

Any discerning member of a music sabha in Chennai knows many, if not all, visit canteens to taste the day’s special that may vary from the glistening Ashoka halwa to piping-hot kuda milagai paruppu usili sevai, (a rice and dal preparation with capsicum), which is a mouthful even by its very name.

But the elderly who do not venture into the canteen are the unlucky souls afflicted with diabetes, hypertension, peptic ulcer or all rolled like roga-malika. Yet such men, who never veer from the straight and narrow dietary path and are regimented to be like lambs in the company of their wives, might make a great escape when the lady of the house is not accompanying them due to dry cough or want of a new sari to flaunt in sabhas.

At such rare, god-given occasions, stealth is second nature to the rasika. “Since she is not around,” they would muse, “and since no one known to my wife appears to be in the vicinity, what if I taste just this once — repeat this once — a small portion of that excellent, juicy and inviting kesar kulfi. After all, one swallow does not make a summer and the atonement can be made with a higher potency insulin pill.

Sabhas and canteens work in tandem. One cannot talk freely when the concert is in progress, except for a hurried tete-e-tete during the gap between two songs. The canteens come in handy wherefrom an old member (the equivalent of the oldest member of the Golf club house in Wodehouse’s Mulliner series) one can learn authoritatively that theninnu kori varnam in Mohanam was by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar and not by Puliyur Doraiswami, the tala of thethani was not misrachapu but kanda chapu and that the RTP was in Aarabhi and not Devagandhari and so on and so forth. That the canteens are a meeting point for NRI boys to have a provisional look girls for matrimony and a rating point for the bride’s parents to decide the caterer for the wedding victuals are too well known.

Seasoned visitors to the sabhas would not make a beeline for the entrance of the auditorium. It is de rigueur to repair to the canteen and mentally devour the menu written neatly in coloured chalks on a board or, at times, even several boards. A national integration of sorts is practised by the caterers as arisi uppuma and paal kozhakkattai will nestle close with mooli paratha and aloo dum.

I was talking to an acquaintance of mine I met once a year in the sabha — rather sabha canteens. After the preliminaries and a lecture on the aptness of this year’s awardees for various titles such as Sangeetha Kalanidhi, Choodamani and Nadha Brahmam, he made a clarion call for the not-so-knowledgeable rasikas.

“One does not get younger year by year and for casual and music festival listeners, the nuances of ragas get progressively clouded. Doubts surface when listening to a kriti. Is that Vachaspathi or Saraswathi, Simmendramadhyamam or shanmugapriya? Your neighbour may be either equally ignoramus or a sabha snob. To alleviate this, why not the sabhas copy the caterers. Take their lead?”

“Copy the caterers? Take their lead? How?”

“Yes. They list out the menu of the day, so you know what you can have or avoid. Likewise, why not all the sabhas issue free leaflets in the auditorium listing out of the songs the artist is going to sing along with names of the ragas, talas and composers. If the vidwan chooses to make a departure, he should make an announcement. Don’t you think it will educate the audience while entertaining them? After all, is it not the object of the sabhas? One can enjoy a raga without knowing its name but should one not know what he has relished — a juicy jangiri and not a jilebi?

Posted on December 22, 2011, in Editors Corner and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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