By the grace of Guru and God, and with the blessings of all the elders, friends, rasikas, scholars, canteen managers, light boys, press photographers, reporters, publicity agents, critics, taxi drivers, microphone and sound system experts (if such a category exists), yet another Music Season has just ended. The Man from Madras Musings rejoices. And in case you are wondering as to why MMM put in that bit about ‘By the grace of Guru and God’ and all the rest of it, it is because that is the standard preamble these days to announcements by any and everyone connected in some way with Carnatic music – awards, concert schedules, marriages, births, travels abroad – all of these are announced this way. It does in some ways indicate a wonderfully respectful attitude to the elders but then MMM has been privy to so many of these artistes grumbling and griping about the very same Gurus and others that he thinks most of such posts are absolute shams.
In any case, even if these messages suddenly don’t begin cropping up on your social media account or arrive in your email inbox with alarming regularity, you would still know December given the number of inane articles on the subject that appeared in the daily press. How did the season begin, is a question that gets asked of MMM each year without fail. It feels a bit like grandchildren clustering around a grandparent and asking for the same story repeatedly. MMM quite enjoyed recounting it for quite a while, but he does find doling out the same stuff quite boring year after year. And so he has taken to informing all journalists as soon as they call asking for a few bytes on the December Season that he is quite prepared to answer provided the questions do not pertain to the following:
1. How did the Season begin?
2. Why is it in December?
3. What is MMM’s view on the fact that some musicians have not been recognized with some awards? (At least one so-called insider managed to get his 30 seconds of fame on this one)
4. Which is MMM’s favourite Sabha canteen?
5. Is it true that this is the largest private festival for music anywhere in the world?
6. What in MMM’s view is the role of the NRI in making the season a success?
7. With so many musicians now coming from abroad, would MMM agree that the centre for music is the United States?
The end result of MMM reading out the above questions is that the journalist have stopped calling MMM. It is just that with the Season having been around for 93 years, the questions too have become ossified – the same stuff is churned out on a routine basis.
The question is, why do newspapers and magazines feel it is mandatory to write on the December Music Season? Do they really imagine that the art which the festival espouses is really attracting such large numbers? In MMM’s view, the sum total of the audience for the entire month, and including all the venues and the fringe events, is not more than 20,000 people. Media people ought to ponder over whether all the words that go into the Season are at all necessary. If they were doing a serious study on what goes into the art and writing on it, the effort may be worthwhile. But if the extent of interest in the subject is only up to what so and so is planning to wear during the Season and what someone else does to balance home and family, it does nothing beyond providing an opportunity for a few standard regulation artistes to appear in the Press.
Do join me on my forthcoming Tiruttani/Sholinghur Tour