Thursday, 12 January 2017

Margazhi in today's smart phone era!

Month of Marghazhi was marked with early morning fog. Namasankeerthanams and Bhajana mandalis woke us up with their early morning chanting of mellifluous bhajans and Thiruppavai/Thiruvembavai.

The curiosity to just have a look at the Ghoshti walking past our home, made us wake up and walk to the main entrance.  Greeted with huge Kolams/Rangolis with yellow pumpkin flower in the middle, what a refreshing morning it used to be.

It was so inspiring, that even the not so artistic girls used to try their hand in doing the kolams. Just  an appreciating pause of the passerby, leave alone a gesture or word or two of real appreciation.... That gave a high and made us do better the next day.

Topping this was the Ven Pongal, mothers and grannies made for prasadham.
Evenings were meant for temple visit or concert visit.
All those pattu veshtis and pattu sarees locked up in the Godrej almirahs used to come out of their slumber.
The Todis and Kalyanis, Bairavis and Kambhojis were discussed at length.
A rare case of rushing, to have a word with the maestro or max get an autograph was seen.

Today, in the era of smartphones, namasankeerthanams happen only in remote villages and staunch agraharams. Ven pongal is only famous in Saravana Bhavan and rare brahmin families.

Kacheris are more, with the exhaustive number of sabhas and cultural organisations.
Youngsters and maestros alike, perform to cater to the young and old.
Its good news. Feels great to see many youngsters as part of performers and audience.

Beyond all this... its really heart wrenching to see the use of smartphones in the concert.
Every minute some person raises his hand with the cell phone to click a picture of the artist.
Other minute a Tab or Ipad raises to shoot a video... all this, only to post in their respective whatsapp or FB profile. To tell the world that he or she was there and attended the concert.

Yes attended is the right word.
As we look around, we see so many  disinterested faces, lost in their own world, with their cell phones or in small chatter with their accompanying friends, relatives etc.

I agree every concert cannot be engaging. There could be dull moments and bright moments.
When uninterested, we can  avoid attending concerts. If forced by family or friends or social obligations, kindly stay out in the lobby to freshen up and then get in. That way one would feel connected.

The artist can perform best only when he has an engaging audience.
Every moment, if he or she were to see a smart phone or Ipad rising up on their face, they tend to get distracted.

I remember a concert of the past, 30 years ago, Sri Chittibabu, was in his world, playing his famous Kuyil paattu on his veena.
Audience were mesmerised by his koos and kaavs. They were so tempted to applaud him between.
He gestured "wait" to the audience, till he completed the song and then smiled at them. He was given a standing ovation.

When, even an applause could disturb the harmony of the artist, singing or playing or dancing, these kind of bad ethics would naturally put them off.

Recent personal experience - Bharathanatyam by Shobana, the smart phone clicks were so annoying to us audience and worse more to her. She being a maestro of her bhavas and mudhras, she stepped aside on the stage and in the same language of mudhras, she gestured to the crowd, requesting not to use smart phones and then stepped back to continue dancing. Just think, how difficult it must have been for her to concentrate on what she was trying to enact.

In another recent show in a famous hall, the volunteers were too many in number. Once the dance show started many of them lined up behind the last row. Some sat in vacant seats.
The varied dance forms were enthralling and here I hear the non stop chatter behind, by these men in uniform.
They could not say between kathak or kuchipudi, not their fault. There should have been a minimum decency to enjoy it in silence, if they did come in, to really do that.

Non stop chatter on phone or with neighbour is another annoying factor. Blessed are those who get to occupy the front few rows, where not much of such botheration happens. They are left to enjoy the concert in peace.
The back row audience are not so unfortunate I guess.

Time and again many people, artists and including the famous K Balachander ( Sindhu Bhairavi) have brought forth this nuisance but its pathetic to see not much has changed.

Adieu Marghazhi... Happy Bogi, Pongal to all!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Chennai's Carnatica revelry!!!

Hello from Chennai!

Yea, its special to be in Chennai in December for all the right and wrong reasons...
The tsunami, MGR death, Floods of 2015, Vardha cyclone of 2016 and worst of all Amma's untimely death.

As if to make up for all the natural calamities and to soothe the strained hearts, Chennai more than made it up with its mellifluous music and visually delightful dance dramas.

Those men and women, old and young alike... who were clearing paths strewn with cyclone remains during the day time, were seen with pattu saree and malipoo, zari dhoti and angavasthrams at the sabha in the evenings. Doing an adi taal or humming along a kalyani or bhairavi.
Not to forget the yummilicious  sabha canteens. They were in full force, serving rasikas from 7 am till 11 pm. From breakfast to 'Ilai sapaadu', evening snacks to dinner.

Attracted by all the funfare and hype it did to me, I did attend a few of the concerts. Got bowled over.
The ultimate for me, is and will always be Dasettan ofcourse.
Undoubtedly amazing. As 'The Hindu' rightly captioned "A voice untouched by age".

Dasettan's rendition was divine, interesting, captivating. At his age, I doubt if I would sit cross legged for thirty minutes, and here he is, sitting untouched for three and half hours.

His white beard adding grace to him and age and experience adding a sparkle to his voice, it was like a magical spell.
Chakkani Raja for elaborate rendition and thani aavarthanam, reminded me so much of Sri Chembai, his guru. Bantureethikoluvu, Balakanakamaya, and many more known and mesmerising numbers. His few words of wisdom on being compassionate to human kind and to Panchaboothas was an eye opener. It was call of the day I felt.

Moved on to Shobana's Bharathanatyam. She proved herself worthy again with her swift footwork, bhavas and mudhras. Her disciples did her proud by their energetic and lightning like footwork.
I am not adept with the right terminology when it comes to dance.
The awesomeness with which she rendered Dasavatharam - the expressions, footwork, kept us enthralled. The roudhram of Narasimha, the innocence of Vaamana were highlights.

Finally, as Jaidevar's Radha, the love lorn, yearning for attention, she left the real Radha blushing. Nattuvangam lady deserves a special mention.

Finally the Harikatha concert by Visakha Hari.
Have been bowled over by her narrating style, the bhava, her voice, her comic sense and liveliness.
This time she let me down?? Or is it the new trend? Unsure.

There was more of singing, elaborate enough to make you restless.
Narayana Theerthar's history could have been short and sweet.
His 12 Tharanginis could have been elaborate interspersed with anecdotes of songs.

Instead it was full song rendition with swaraprastharam and thani avarthanams.
Felt like a paattu kacheri and not like a harikatha.
Its absolutely my personal opinion, not to offend the great artists or take away any glory of her prowess, style and expertise in the field.

Last but not the least of the season - Rajesh Chaurasiya and Jayanthi Kumaresh Jugalbandhi.
Open air courtyard at Phoenix Mall. Awesome weather to be sitting out, enjoying your favourite music I felt.

Cool breeze swept us thru, while the soothing flute and veena combo swept us off our feet.
Heard Jayanthi for the first time and got madly in love with her veena rendition.
The beginning notes of Vatapi Ganapathim followed by raag Vaachaspathi kept the audience enthralled.
Seating was somewhat unkind to the rasikas. Veena and flute more than made it up.
Adios to Chennai music season for now...
So long guys!

Amreeka - The dream continues...

Hiii Friends,

Happy New Year!!!

Feels as if 2016 passed like a lightning... Or does it feel like that always, at the end of every year??
So... Coming back to my Amreeka story...

Where were we? haan, at Chicago

On the way back from Chicago, stopped at a Mediterranean food place.
Apart from the regular Falafel, Hummus, Pita bread, their yellow lentil soup - (our Masoor Dal) was especially awesome.

Next week it was Columbus.

Traversed thru Cincinatti, an industrial city, is the vision it gave me.
A small joint, 'Ambar' restaurant was really awesome. Their naan was unbelievably soft, especially in the heart of US.

Dayton, calm city and famous for its 'National Museum of the United States Air Force'.
Awesome collection it holds within. 

'Ohio State University' structure and magnitude is hard to believe. 

'Columbus Park of Roses', kept the rose lover in me engrossed for hours... Loved every bit.

'Hollywood Casino' - a sneak peek into the Casino and gambling world. Spent few $$ earned a few... 
Lunch at 'Olive Garden' - worth a mention.
Veg options are fewer but their eggplant Parmigiana just melts. Do not miss their dessert line up, especially the cheese cakes and sampler - Dolcini. 

'Center of Science and Industry (COSI)' is really interesting for kids as well as adults.

Took a day trip to Pittsburg - the famous 'Venkateshwara Temple'.
So neat and organized. Great darshan without the jarugandi calls and pushing jostling unlike Tirupathi here.
Their cafetaria is as famous as the lord himself...  They did stand up to the reputation.

On the way back we took a detour to West Virginia, to visit the famous 'Sri Prabhupadha Golden Chariot temple'.
The cool woody path leading to the temple, thru the ghat section, is too good to be true.
The temple exteriors have worn out. The multiple exercise to plating it with real gold has now stopped after it proved expensive and futile.

The interiors is maintained and literally holds your breath. The stained glass, the murals, gem stone inlay work and the gilded gold work captures the beauty and workmanship. Its unbelievably true that all the work inside was learnt and done by the disciples themselves with no trained artisans involved.
Life like statue of Sri Prabhupada made me lose my balance in awe.

One point I wish to mention here, rather a special mention, the accessibility for senior citizen and specially abled throughout US.
Every road, every public place, every structure is built with a ramp to give access to mobility scooter, wheelchairs and such.
One can feel so independent and  mobile.

More to come... Its Canada time to follow soon...