Sunday, September 7, 2008

Phenomenal concert

We attended an incredible carnatic vocal concert by Ranjani and Gayatri this evening. The sisters originally started out as concert violinists, and transitioned into vocal performances in '97. The concert was absolutely amazing! Their voices are incredibly sweet and their modulation when they hit higher notes was superb.

I am not classically trained, so I can't go into details about their rendition. But they are one of my favorite vocalists now. They finished the concert with a couple of hindustani pieces which were perfect. I could listen to them all day!

They were accompanied by H.N. Bhaskar on the Violin and Delhi Sriram on the Mridangam.

At one point though, Ranjani stopped singing - while she was exploring the nuances of a raaga, because of the amount of disturbance in the auditorium! We were amazed at how chaotic the first half was, with noise and movement.

Carnatic music concerts are special because of their informal air, and because the audience is able to interact with the artistes, passing along requests etc. The artistes enjoy this as well, but while this can be a strength, it could also lead to people feeling too relaxed to the point of being inconsiderate.

So what's the worst you have experienced in a concert? Here's my list.

1. People (sitting next to you) humming tonelessly with the artistes.

2. People walking in and out between pieces, allowing the doors to BANG shut!

3. Children walking about wearing loud anklets - anklets are cute on kids, but this is not where you want to hear them - not their fault; parents need to watch for this!

4. Parents bringing along lap-sized DVD players for their kids, so that the flickering screen with cartoon characters next to you distracts you for the whole concert - esply if it's a packed concert and you can't move.

5. Small children cannot be expected to sit still and silent for over 3 hours. So parents shouldn't expect them to! They should get a baby-sitter, or they should leave as soon as the kids start to lose interest and fuss. We did see some kids there though who were totally absorbed and enjoyed the music - so parents need to be able to gauge their kids' interest.

6. People treat the solo pieces by the mridangam or violin artistes as their chance to take a break and go to the bathroom!! This is so rude. This evening the mridangam artiste was a very young man, on his first concert tour outside India, and he was incredible! He was looking around at people strolling out as he played his solo piece, and I felt so bad! This kid was really good too.

Despite all these disturbances, the concert was absolutely phenomenal. They are performing in Dallas next weekend, and we are tempted to drive over there too!


Vidya said...

Hi Bindu,

Yes they are sensational ! I listened to them at the Hamsadhwani in adayar. You forgot one more thing on the list..Cell phones ringing and people walking out to take the call (or worse yet having a conversation right in the middle of the concert)


Ganesh Venkittu said...

1) Not all that I am going to say is applicable to all. There are people who follow every rule, and have higher standards.
2) All of these observations were observed to the most part in Music ACademy madras, where I have listened to the most of concerts ( including the recent Semmangudi Centenary celebrations during which Ranjani Gayathri, RK Srikantan, Sudha Ragunathan and TM Krishna sang and I listened).
3) The words in this post are English version of how they are said in Tamil. So its Ragam, not Raaga, Talam not Taal.

The top 5 things that irritate me during a concert

1) People yelling out the ragam as soon as the raga alapanai starts.
2) People getting so “into” it, that they start waging a war with their thigh -- putting loud “Taalams” to nth degree.
3) People who arrive early don’t go to the center of seats in that row, but rather sit at the very end. Everyone in that row have to stomp their feet ( to which they yell) or have to squeeze in (to which we yell)
4) People not switching off their mobile. For some, their vibrate mode is louder than the “ring” mode. And the relentless SMS’ing in concerts.
5) Eating during the concerts – like the person having gone through 15 days of “Ekadasi”.

One clarification to your post – a Carnatic concert is anything but informal. In fact, in my opinion that is what distinguishes it from a “light music concert”…Music Academy strictly condones giving “cheetu” during concerts. Sometimes the artistes do interact – as with a rare raaga ( Tanaroopi anyone?), and will explain the “Arohanam” and “avarohanam”..but that should not be construed as being informal.

This formality is the highlight of a concert – if you step into the Academy, it instantaneously transports you to a state of bliss and quietness. Just outside the two doors is a world of chaos – the noise, the pollution, the traffic jams, the ridiculous cine songs (naaku mukka, vaadi/podi types, and the sultry types) and here is a stage that is still maintaining its charm that is the domain of the dikshitars, the tyagarajars, and the syama sastri’s.

You have come a long way – from “I got a fast car” to “vatapi ganapathim”….good luck


bindu said...

Ganesh! Thanks for your comments. Hope your trip to India was good.

I do like carnatic music, but that doesn't mean I've left Tracy Chapman behind. :) I still like the lyrics and music of her Fast Car. Many people still live this way. I think my music appreciation is just more expansive now - I can appreciate several different forms all at once! :)

Will talk to you soon.

amuraj said...

Hi Bindu,
Felt great reading your posts.However this interested me the most'coz you know why!There is also another irritating act that can really put artists off(espescially if the artist is an absolute new comer)- ask them to sing and then go on to chat about everything under the sun without listening to a word of the song!Amutha
The icing on the cake of course will be the comment on the singing!How do you like that?

bindu said...

Amutha ma'am - welcome! I agree with you. I'm sure you have a lot of experiences to share about this. Hope P&S have been continuing to sing in spite of weird behavior on the part of the listeners!