Friday, February 8, 2013

Sabhas - Chennai’s Classical Music Extravaganza


It is a tough ask to learn the nuances of Indian classical music in order to throw your weight around as an expert. Far easier to pick up the incidental knowledge surrounding the Music season and put on airs. About the first set of incidental knowledge one needs to acquire is the location of the Sabhas, the schedule of concerts as well as when and how to buy the tickets for the concerts.
Even the Chennai dweller may well fail to recognize some of the sabhas since they tend to masquerade as school or college auditoriums till the Music season arrives and they throw off the camouflage and bloom into centers of culture. A huge cluster of these Sabhas are present in the Mylapore and T-Nagar areas, which have been my normal haunts during the season.
One can hardly fail to notice the Music Academy – one of the few non-masquerading sabhas – at the intersection of Cathedral Road and TTK road or the Naradha Gana Sabha on TTK road. The Mylapore Fine Arts opposite Vivekananda College and the Brahma Gana Sabha on Luz Church road are just round the corner from the Narada Gana Sabha. Chennai’s oldest Sabha is the Parthasarathy Swami sabha – if I am right – for which you travel down Cathedral road beyond the Music Academy and take the right at the next flyover. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium near the Kapalishwarar temple also hosts concerts – even free ones during the end-November period. Rani Seethai Hall near Gemini and Kalaignar Arangam in the same vicinity have also taken to music in the season. T-Nagar is another area rich with concert halls. Vani Mahal, Sri Krishnagana Sabha, Bharat Kalachar, Nungambakkam Fine Arts, German Hall – a whole host of choices await the music lover.
You could choose to buy the season tickets for a sabha or two or you could choose to buy the tickets as and when you feel free to attend a concert. To the best of my knowledge, almost all the sabhas sell advance tickets for all concerts. The Music Academy, however, sells tickets only in the morning of the day of the concert or just before the concert starts. The Narada Gana Sabha starts selling tickets from the day before the concert – again in the morning or just before the concert. Both these halls, however, hold two programs in the evening – starting 4-4.30 PM – and the ticket is valid for both programs unless otherwise stated. Incidentally, the tickets can come as cheap as Rs.100/=  and, thus, is not really a huge drain on your exchequer.
If you merely want to check out the music – without incurring the expense of the tickets – you can try out the afternoon concerts in most sabhas where aspiring singers give free concerts. No need to sneer at those concerts – the current hot star, Abhishek Raghuram, was not too long ago singing in the afternoon. Some singers get the prime slot in lesser-known sabhas while still singing in the noon slots at major sabhas.
In addition, the Music Academy also has yesteryear stars singing in the morning 9.15 AM slot for free. If you want to hear a T.N. Seshagopalan, Nedunuri Krishnamurti, Vedavalli, Bombay Sisters or T.N. Krishnan for free, this may be the slot for you. The cognoscenti also flock to the lec-dems in the sabhas but most of them are more like post-doctoral courses requiring a very strong base in the arts.
Concert schedules are put up outside the concerned halls. Nowadays, they are available on the Internet and, I believe, there are even apps that help you schedule your concerts. How about a carnatic music concert this season, Chennaiites, instead of another visit to the multiplex?

18 comments:

  1. I wish some such thing happened at Kota too.

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    1. Maybe it does desultorily Indu! As it does in Bangalore during Ram Navami!

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  2. I am not much of a music person neither a film crazy one.

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    1. Interesting - I hv always been a music person :)

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  3. Interesting insights for those who want to start following music, Suresh.

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  4. Hi Suresh,

    I have a cousin who is a violinist and he plays at quite a few 'katcheris' during the music season...I became acquainted with this whole carnatic music-sabha-season thing due to him... Otherwise my knowldege of music was restricted to the cine ones...Now my knowledge is decent and when I was pregnant I had this sudden desire to attend some music concerts....I remember all the kicks my son gave me from inside in response to the mridangam beats! :) Some sabhas are supposed to serve an array of scrumptious food as well rt?

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    1. That scrumptious food is a today's post, Jaish! :)

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  5. Liked it a lot specially the sabha's which is keeping our classical music alive...if you come up to northern or western part of India it's almost dead...it was a good informative read.

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  6. My aim to be on that stage someday in my life.

    However, I guess I will only be there as a lighting assistant :P :P

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    1. Welcome. I'm not just coming by, I read all your posts :)

      Something I really lack in my writing is humour. I read yours to attempt my own.

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    2. Making your presence felt, shall we say :)

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  7. I have never been to Chennai in the music season, but this post brought back memories of my own childhood, Suresh. I lived in Matunga in Mumbai for about 3 years and home to 3 major associations/sabhas : the Shanmukhananda Hall, the Karnataka Sangha and Mysore Association. There were performances all through the year and not just during a particular season.

    From the age of 5 till about 8 I attended practically all music and dance performances organised by these sabhas with my mother. We were members of all three associations and musical evenings were much awaited. For the music and the popcorn ;-)

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    1. There are a few such in Bangalore as well, Sudha! The Bangalore version, however, does not create waves in Society at the period the way the Chennai season does - I mean regular supplements in newspapers exclusively covering the Music Season and all.

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