28 February 2006

2005 Music Season

I am writing after quite a long while. In November I went India and could spend a few weeks in Chennai in December. Rain played havoc in Chennai with many roads flooded, homes wrecked and lives lost. Rivers that are usually dry flowed again and temple tanks actually held water instead of just mud and rubbish.

The Madras Music Season carried on but crowds were down on the rainy days. I attended around ten concerts this year (many fewer than in 2002 where I attended 25). Unfortunately I was not overly impressed by the concerts I attended. While some artistes displayed flashes of brilliance, there is not one concert that still rings in my ears. Probably my mind was not with the music, but wondering what my 6 month old baby was doing!

The best of the lot this year was Sudha Ragunathan's Shastri Hall concert for Shanti Arts. The main items were Sankaranive in Begada and Karthikeya in Thodi (it was Karthi). Vellore Ramabhadran accompanied her - the first time I had seen him accompanying a female vocalist. In my ears, she is undoubtedly the reigning Queen of Carnatic music.

Canteens associated with the sabhas did roaring business as usual. Arasuvai Natarajan kept the stomachs satisfied at the Music Academy. Even if the music quality was not high the food was excellent! Apart from the canteens there are many more restuarants in Chennai offerring the best of Indian food. Whether you enjoy the traditional South Indian meal or prefer the delights of Mumbai, Punjab or even Thailand, there is somewhere in Chennai for you satisfy your culinary desires.

Likewise the recording companies did well. With so many NRIs visiting Chennai, there was good opportunity to sell in bulk. I bypassed Sankara Hall this year and visited the rival establishment further up the road in the Chettiar Hall run by Music World. As my wife and I filled our carry baskets with the latest releases, the sales assistants eagerly recommended new titles and bringing us fresh carry baskets. I was surprised to see a veena CD label 'Live in Sydney' - a concert which I had done the original recording!

Chennai is nice place to visit during December. If you are into good vegetarian food, carnatic music or shopping, you won't be disappointed. The sari and jewelry shops in Chennai (especially T Nagar) seem to have multiplied and grown much larger in the last few years and each of them are packed to the brim. There is some scope for process improvement in these stores however. To buy a single item you often have to deal with at least 4 different people (each with a different role) before you receive your goods. Maybe this is a good employment strategy.

As ever, India was a pleasant experience but I still like it in small doses. After 7 weeks, I craved for my dust free life of ordered traffic and clean tap water.