Today I have something different for you. Ramesh has been a regular visitor to my blog for the last couple of years. Though exposed to Carnatic Music through his parents, he himself never took any interest in it until a few years back. His interest has deepened since and now he even makes time to attend concerts when he can. I never knew that I had an evangelist streak in me, but it looks as if I do; it pleases me truly that he blames his deepened interest partly on my blog! He shared a commentary of his recent concert experience with me. It is so well-written that I thought to share it with you all. So here is my guest-writer for the day, Ramesh.
Can you really describe what goes into making a music concert near perfect ? Is it the quality and reputation of the artistes ? Is it their mood on that day ? Is it the choice of the ragas and kritis that they choose to feature ? Does the chemistry between the artistes matter ? Do the acoustics of the hall have a bearing ? Is a majestic arena a requirement for great music ? Does a knowledgeable and attentive audience make a difference ? Do artistes need the appreciation of the audience to rise to excellence ? Is it the listener’s mood which makes the difference between the drab and the divine?
Do I hear you say, all of the above ?
Well, yesterday, I went to a violin recital by Mysore Manjunath and Mysore Nagaraj held in open air; acoustically, you could not have thought of a worse place. In addition, the obligatory generator humming in one corner was louder than the shruti being strummed. Traffic honked by in the road 50 yards away. As is very often the case, the mike system was continually being adjusted for the first 30 minutes of the concert.
The crowd was sparse , perhaps some 300 in all. As it was a free concert, quite a few families had come, with a bunch of adorable babies and kids having their own fun running around.
I wasn’t in the best of moods either. My drive across Bangalore to attend the concert had left me with such a bad back that I stood much of the time. Rightfully it should have been a disaster.
But then something happened. Manjunath and Nagaraj were simply inspired. Their choice of ragas seemed almost perfect. As they warmed up, Sudhindra and Jayachandra Rao on the mridangam started to synch beautifully. They had all become one unit and were egging each other on. The less than perfect setting turned out to be an intimate one where the audience almost connected personally with the artistes. Just the starting notes of Tera Tiyaga Rada set the mood for something special. Manjunath dealt with Vasanta raga with great flair and Seethamma Mayamma followed with brilliant artistry. Nagaraj’s Kharaharapriya inspired such frenzied gesticulating in the audience that surely some would have sprained their wrists! Swarams built up to breathtaking crescendos. Despite the exodus at the start of the thani avarthanam, Sudhindra and Jayachandra Rao had got infected with the mood and simply excelled themselves. If I were to tell you that they attempted one artiste playing only with the left hand and the other only with the right hand to create a perfect mridangam beat, you’ll probably get the picture. They built the finale up so well that both Manjunath and Nagaraj almost stood up to give them an ovation.
At the end there were probably only some 50 of us. When they struck the notes for the Mangalam, we almost were sad that this was ending. They had created some real magic. I had to sigh and expel the breath I had held. The notes are haunting my mind even after a full day has passed.
You see, the recipe was all wrong. But it was a near perfect concert.