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Monday, January 26, 2015

A humorous look at how Carnatic music connoisseurs behave during a concert.

One of the off-beat pleasures of being present at a live Carnatic music concert, is to observe the different ways members of the audience respond to a performance. It is entertaining to watch the hard boiled rasikas, who usually carry an enormous baggage of knowledge, experience and expertise, and are thus fully primed to be either overly appreciative or downright dismissive of the artists on stage. To find someone in the audience with an open mind, would be akin to spotting a river running through the Sahara. The following are a few such categories of enthusiasts – which are merely a representative sample.

Nostalgic Narayanan: He is forever mentally locked in the 1940s to ’60s era. When the artist essays a particularly brilliant passage during an alapana in Kalyani, Nostalgic Narayanan will turn to his long suffering wife and stage whisper in her ear, “Is this supposed to be Kalyani? On this same stage, GNB has sung the defining Kalyani for all time to come. This upstart may as well pack up and go home”.
Later on in the concert, the poor artist embarks on Karaharapriya, at which point our protagonist turns once more to his life partner and mutters, “Karaharapriya is Semmangudi’s family wealth. This fellow has some nerve even attempting it”. Fortunately, he does not notice that his wife has now stuffed her ears with cotton wool.
The ragam conundrum: Audiences at a Carnatic concert are never at ease if they do not identify the raga being performed. This is a peculiarly unique condition that afflicts only Carnatic music aficionados. If a rarely heard raga is being sung or played, the audience gets into a royal tizzy. Agitated, they turn to their neighbours for help, pore over their Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini, start googling, and generally look bereft, unable to focus on the concert. Finally, the artist decides to put the audience out of its collective misery and announces gravely, “Bindumalini”. There is a palpable sigh of relief, and everyone finally relaxes in their seats to enjoy the rest of the performance.
Talam tantrums: Keeping time or tala with the artist, has been a time -honoured occupational hazard at kutcheries. There are those who will do it in a subtle, noiseless manner, waving their hands and fingers delicately, and usually in sync with the artist and the kala pramaanam, or time. Others will be on the edge of their seats, proferring their hands ostentatiously at the artist, and time-clapping in a loud manner. These are the types who will be keeping time in misra chapu tala, while the song is being performed in adi tala! Some will also demonstrate a ‘yet-to-be discovered’ tala. And woe betide anyone who tries to stop them!
The hummingbird: It’s sing-along time folks. If a well known song is being sung, you can expect half the audience to hum along. This can be both hilarious and irritating, depending on how close you are to the pretender. At times the wannabe musicians will sing in a sruti or scale that bears no resemblance to the artist’s scale. But they will carry on undaunted!
Additionally, in most sabhas the hapless artist has to put up with squawking babies, collection plates being passed around, somebody strolling with a placard bearing a car number, a misguided enthusiast from the back shouting “Kurai onrum illai, please”, little girls walking onto the stage leaving request slips, VIPs entering or leaving in the middle of a concert, and everyone else in the audience craning their necks to get a better look at the celebrity.
If for nothing else, Carnatic musicians deserve our gratitude that they are able to perform day in and day out, keeping thousands of people happy, in the midst of so many challenges and obstacles, unique to this much loved and revered art form.

On reading the remarks about canteen, I recollect an old Ananda vikatan joke. 

2 rasikas meet in canteen and following conversation ensued: 

"Yesterday Hindolam was very good"

" is it? I will take a parcel of that today before I go home!"
(He thought Hindolam is a new dish in canteen)

 I have come across with another category. They will bring their newspaper with them and start reading the same page to age and will start solving the crossword puzzle. They will fold  their paper as soon as "mangalam" is started!

1.I am reminded of the great Mali stopping to play,and remark " Nan Mattum Talam Pottal Podumey".(It is sufficient if only I put the Tala). He stared at a pretender in the front row and made him put the Tala correctly. 
2. Tani is the unofficial interval. The break is used to visit the bathroom as well the canteen, On returning to his seat,he gives a review of the Upma this year compared to last year and also vis-a-vis other sabha-canteens. AlongsideSangeeta Kalanidhi,they should institute "canteenratna","Canteen bhushan","Canteen Shri" etc by conducting a survey at the end of each concert. 
You have members of the audience praising the artist while speaking on Jaya TV. They should also be asked to comment on the Canteen. 'Inda varusham Badam Halwa Pramadama Irundadu,thanks to.XX-TV." 
3. You are unlucky to have a giraffe right in front of your line of vision to block the view of the stage.Your only chance of seeing the artiste will be when he sways to Raghuvamsha or Manaviala....
4.Neighbour's tapping the feet/swinging thighs is a great irritant. If the auditorium furniture is not firm at the foundation,the vibrations carry. 

Once Semmangudi remarked,"we imitate so many things from the Westerners.Why can't we copy their audience manners ?"  

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