As the holiday season begins in the western world, my hometown in India, Chennai, has already started gearing up for a big arts gala, with nearly 3000 performances of classical music and dance featured in the short span of a month! This probably has no parallel in the world, where an entire city enjoys classical art forms throughout the day. If you are an art lover, you might want to start your day at a temple, which wears a special aura during this time, and festivities include some beautiful traditional, religious music either through the majestic wind instrument, Nadaswaram, or bhajana groups (chorale form). Homes are decorated with bigger kolam (floral or geometric designs at the entrance, using flour), and hot South Indian foods like pongal and idli taste extra special because of the little nip in the 'winter' air, with temperatures hovering around the perfect 20-degree celsius mark!
With such a lovely start to the day, one can typically go to any venue in the city to hear the beautiful sounds of classical music all day long! Some venues also give food for your intellect with lectures, panels and presentations on various topics pertaining to the arts. One can feast one's eyes on South India's pride, Bharatanatyam, the well-known classical dance form. Or can be regaled with stories from the Hindu mythology to the accompaniment of music in Harikatha performances.
It has been fifteen years since my move to the United States, but I try not to miss the 'season' in Chennai. The atmosphere is very unique and I love being part of it. My artistic life in the US is undoubtedly fulfilling and does runs at a happily busy pace, but I love going back to the Chennai audiences as a performer. The frequency of performance during the season for an audience that hears so much music that it can instinctively distinguish between a mediocre, good and a great performance, does keep me on my toes. The challenge of keeping oneself physically, mentally and artistically in shape to perform say, 8-9 concerts within a span of two weeks is something I do not want to lose touch with.
This year, my season includes more than half-a-dozen concerts, talks on the music of the late M S Subbulakshmi and the Evolution of the Carnatic concert, besides helping my 7-year old daughter and three other students prepare for and present their own concerts. Here is the schedule:
Dec 11, 5pm - My daughter, Akshara Samskriti, performs for Carnatica's inaugural day @ Sankara Vidyasharam School Auditorium, Tiruvanmiyur
Dec 18, 10am - Talk on the music of the late Smt. M S Subbulakshmi @ Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore
Dec 21, 9am - Talk of the Evolution of the Carnatic Concert @ The Music Academy, Royapettah
Dec 21, 4.45pm - Performance for Brahma Gana Sabha @ The PS High School Auditorium, Mylapore
Dec 26, 9.30am - Performance for The Mylapore Fine Arts Club, Mylapore
Dec 28, 5pm - Performance for Maarga Festival @ TAG Auditorium, Ramakrishna Mission School, T. Nagar
Dec 29, 11am - My daughter, Akshara Samskriti performs for Trinity Fine Arts festival @ Kumara Raja Muthiah School, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar
Dec 30, 5pm - Performance for Naada Sudha @ Ganapati Sachidananda Ashram, Velachery
Jan 3, 5pm - Performance for CMANA's new collaborative festival with Narada Gana Sabha, Alwarpet
Jan 5, 2pm - Performance for Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha @ Vidya Bharati Kalyana Mantapam, Mylapore
I will share the fine-tuned details such as accompaniments for each performance in a few days both here in my blog and my Facebook page, so do stay tuned in. I look forward to seeing you at these performances!