In 2012 upcoming Carnatic vocalist Rithwik Raja encountered a ritual associated with concerts that influenced him to begin an endeavour to ensure rasikas have a full-fledged concert experience.
Raja and a group of artistes were to perform at the Esplanade Hall, Singapore, and were asked to come to the concert hall five hours in advance. The technicians then made the right audio settings, choosing the apt microphones for different instruments. He describes the performance that he gave that evening as unforgettable. “I was down with fever that day; however, the audio output and microphone settings made me forget my troubles and deliver one of my best performances,” he reminisces.
The experience made him sit up and think about how listening experiences inside a concert hall could be improved. That he had done a course in sound engineering helped the idea germinate. This led to the band of musicians shooting a video of a Carnatic music concert in an apt setting as a pilot, replete with stage backdrop, audio and video equipment – an endeavour that was named Kutcheri – A concert experience.
The response to the video, in Raja’s own words, has been fabulous. It was uploaded to Facebook and many of his friends who have no knowledge of Carnatic music have been very appreciative about it. In fact, the day a capsule of the video was uploaded to YouTube around 700 persons watched it, and offered encouraging comments.
What he finds most satisfying is the fact some musicians took the trouble to reach out to them and laud them for their effort. “Till date we have not received any negative feedback.”
The budding musician, who has been training under eminent vocalist T M Krishna for about a decade, says that their effort has been all about offering Carnatic music in a setting that is in sync with its aesthetics. “We were guided by the philosophy that if people leave their work behind and come to listen to us for three hours at concerts, then we need to give them our best. The focus on acoustics is only to enhance our performance.”
The lack of the ‘hook’ factor in Carnatic music is something that bothers this vocalist. “There are many listeners who get hooked on Ilayaraja’s numbers because they sound melodious, but we felt it was not that way with Carnatic music despite its inherent qualities.” A BCom graduate, Raja says that they intend to repeat the experiment in upcoming concerts, provided the organisers are willing to cooperate.
Ask him whether such an effort would irk purists and he is quick to reply in the negative. “We are offering only pure traditional Carnatic music; this should not upset anyone in any way. And what we have done isn’t exactly an innovation. That is too big a word to describe what we have done.”
Artistes who performed in the video include violinist M Vijay, Tanjore K Praveen Kumar on mridangam, Anirudh Athreya on kanjira and G Chandrashekara Sharma on the ghatam.