Date: December 3
Venue: Kumararajah Muthiah Hall, Chettinad Vidyashram School
Ambience: Tasteful and aesthetic decor
Comfort: AC feels a little harsh for December, but keeps mosquitoes away.
Crowd: As good as it gets for a televised event; T.M. Krishna factor (full crowd).
Response: Muted to wildly appreciative based on understanding levels.
In nutshell: Despite T.M. Krishna’s utter disregard for the familiar kutcheri pattern or disagreement with it, his music definitely showcases erudition of high order, and highly developed aesthetics. Accompanied by R.K. Shrikumar on the violin, Arun Prakash on the mridangam, and Chandrasekar Sharma on the ghatam, his performance at Margazhi Mahotsavam, at the behest of Jaya TV, was a mix of difference and indifference. Read on and you will see why!
After sitting through the recital by Vidwan T.M. Krishna (I hope he does not mind being called so, as it confirms to norms and some model created by somebody and he frankly does not know what it has done to music) at Chettinad Vidyashram venue as part of Jaya TVs’ Margazhi Mahotsavam, I am not inclined to call it a concert or a kutcheri – not because it was less of that, but I don’t want to offend the performer of the evening, his thinking of what the concert scene has become and what it has done to the music world. The pain was obvious, visible and the concern seemed genuine. So, I will refer to it as an ‘event’ or a ‘noncert’
Before going into the details of what the usual parlance calls as ‘concert’, it is worth taking a peek at the Q&A session of the evening that had some interesting questions and even more enlightening answers. How can they be anything less in TMKs’ event? First questioner asked about what his views were on this ‘forever intriguing word’ ‘BaaNi’, citing the examples of Ariyakudi and GNB schools. Our performer gave a very thought provoking answer to it; most would not agree with him, but can at least appreciate the sincerity behind that including this ordinary rasika. Though the question referred to “BaaNi” in general terms, it was not clear if the questioner referred to the Ariyakudi concert model aka. kutcheri pattern ostensibly established and mostly followed even today by almost everyone, except TMK; or stylistic aspects of singing that individual schools like Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, GNB and other masters of yesteryear.
A baaNi like GNB or SemmanguDi or any notable vidwan of yesteryear would refer to the style of singing and the pADAntaram (sangathis and progressions). I am sure TMK at least started out as a performer following both and is now in a contemplative stage of his career wondering what it has done to Carnatic music.
He deserves kudos for being such a vocal maverick. The thought well goes with the pre-sabha patron supported concert days when music was perhaps pursued purely as an art of ‘Atma-sAdhanA’ by composers, performers and pursuers were also not in large numbers.
The other question was, “How would a Krishna sitting in the audience feel and respond to the performance of Krishna on the stage?” The answer was that he liked some of what he did, but not everything. This genuine introspection deserves a big pat for his candidness.
Coming to the concert, he had a sober beginning of very carefully etched Ananda Bhairavi sung with a slowness slower than probably the krithi would take; but truly the bhava was impeccable; simple violin accompaniment would probably suffice for a such a rendition, and any percussion was none but a dummy effort.
Following was the evergreen RTP ‘SankarAbharaNanai AzhaithoDi vADi kalyANi, darbhArukku’. The planned execution of raga alapanai in turn leading to the next raga by both TMK and R.K. Shriramkumar was good, though not elaborate and sparkling. The pallavi execution mostly was without frills and fancied approach but sung neatly in Sankarabharanam and Thodi. Medium and fast tempo swaras were in Kalyani and Darbar. Contrary to the norm of the day, TMK was very restrained in manodharma and did not indulge in elaborate and complex number partioning math.
The thani that was to follow was left to the percussion artists’ choice; after some discussions among the artistes, Arunprakash and Chandrasekar Sharma played a short thani in mishrajathi triputa, a chance for them to excel and it was short and sweet. From now on, organisers can save sometime for TMK, if they let thani be done before TMK comes to the concert. R.K.Shrikumar is always a charm to watch and was at his usual mellow melody.
In summary, this ‘noncert’ had its own thrills and frills, written, screen played, directed and acted all by T.M. Krishna.
Krishna is definitely a very refined and seasoned musician, but for an ordinary rasika like me, his posture and issues about the state of affairs are difficult to comprehend. May be his own performing fraternity does!
A person cannot be defying a system that cradled him, and is followed by millions. It is like questioning the logic of many things in religion, or an epic like Mahabharata.
(Ashok Subramaniam, an electrical engineer by profession and a music teacher by passion, has been living in Morgan Hill, California, for over 25 years. He visits Chennai during music season every year and occasionally writes on arts, artistry and artistes.)
Location: Tamil Nadu