Karnatak Music towards Mass Appeal

Increasing the mass appeal of classical music has always proven a challenge globally. Carnatic music is no exception – this last weekend the Ideas Conclave 2014, held by the Arts for Life Foundation at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Bengalooru was an all day event titled “Karnatak Music – towards a mass appeal”. The public event, brought performers, music editors and writers, organizers, sabha administrators and listeners together to brainstorm ideas and share experiences in making carnatic music accessible and appealing to a wider audience. The sparsely attended event offered numerous actionable ideas and lessons for all those interested in promoting classical music. This column hopes to continue the conversation beyond the auditorium.

“The writer has to restage the performance for the reader” said Deepa Ganesh of the Hindu while talking about articles on music in the print media. Ganesh talked about how music reviews tend to be pedantic and that there was a dearth of good writers in this genre. She compared writing about music to that of science and how both require a style that is simple enough for the casual reader to grasp and appreciate the concepts. Mysore Subramanya, noted music and dance critic, observed how a Lata Mangeshkar program could fill up an entire stadium but such was not the case with classical concerts. He touched upon how performers view reviews as merely an addition to their bio-datas. “We want readers to attend performances of the artistes covered after reading on such reviews.” said R.K.Upadhya from Deccan Herald who moderated the panel discussion. He complimented the music program by the differently abled children of Hamsakutira in the afternoon segment of the conference and highlighted the need for music reviews to be not just a list of songs rendered at performances but a critical analysis of the music. 

HK Venkatram, one of the well-known violinists from Bangalore came up with three interesting ideas that could make carnatic music more accessible.
1. Change the concert format from the conventional and make it more easy to understand for the listeners. He recalled a program at the music school founded by his family (Vijaya College of music) when mridangist H.S. Sudhindhra gave a 30 minute lecdem on mridanga accompaniment and demonstrated how the percussion instrument could make or break a concert. This demonstration was followed by a vocal concert by Pattabhirama Pandit (with violin accompaniment by Charulatha Ramanujam) where the listeners understood what the mridangist was talking about in the initial segment.
2. A need to document all presentations, lecture-demonstrations and preserve heritage sites such as Tiruvaiyaru.
3. Feedback forms to be distributed among listeners during concerts and then given to the artistes. 

Vainika Dr. Geetha R. Bhat, wanted to expand the definition of music beyond the obvious. She touched upon the the therapeutic nature of music whether it was to alleviate the pain of cancer patients as well as improve behavioral changes in prison inmates. “Music could be used as an emotional intelligence tool for a child” she said. Veteran vocalist Dr.T.S.Satyavati rounded off the panel discussion by declaring that good music would always stand the test of time.

Conferences such as Ideas Conclave need to be commended as they serve as meeting grounds for different organizations to pool their resources and think-tank. Classical arts need to flourish and grow and such events help in promoting ideas and ventures to achieve this goal.

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