CHENNAI: Last year, it brought together fishermen, children, Carnatic musicians and parai drummers. This year, the Urur Olcott Margazhi Vizha aims to bring together different styles of music and classes of people, while also paying its respects to the spirit of Chennaiites who helped bring the city back to its feet after the deluge.
Conceptualised by musician TM Krishna, the festival aims to break down preconceived notions and stereotypes on various genres of music. “The vizha not only allows for a healthy conversation between different social groups and art forms, but will also meaningfully respond to the man-made floods in 2015,” says the singer.
As a part of the festival, musical events will take place (apart from Urur Olcott Kuppam) at two different places in the city that were affected by floods – West Mambalam, which is a middle-class area, and Semmencherry, where displaced people and migrant workers live. “We want people to recover from the trauma and art is always a way to heal. But we also want to acknowledge some groups of people who have done a lot for the city — the youth, who came together in large numbers, the fisherfolk who worked to rescue people, and the conservancy workers who worked hard to clean up the mess,” says Nityanand Jayaraman, environmental activist and a coordinator of the event.
Krishna concurs, and adds: “Art, as a healing medium, is not a default occurrence. It happens when the artists, organisers and audiences come together in unity. We hope to make people think about the need for a change in the way we live.”
The event will start with a curtain raiser at Besant Nagar Beach with fusion and classical performances. The event will have a combination of Carnatic music, Indie music, villupaatu and other art forms. The organisers say it will be a small budget show, relying on crowd funding. They see the vizha as a socio-aesthetic conversation. “These are vitiated times with a lot of contemporary issues like the issue of caste politics after the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula. We want art to calm people down. While art is supposed to bring people together, often art itself is segregated as Brahmin art or Dalit art. Through this programme, we want to bring these arts together and also these audiences together,” says Nityanand.
While on the one hand, society is portrayed as modern and liberal, Krishna says that in contrast, we are further trapped in our own selves and communities and insensitivity towards minorities still prevails. “We want the privileged to experience the art forms that they hold close to their hearts in environments and spaces that they do not even know exist, and come in contact with art that they don’t see as ‘theirs’ due to ingrained caste and class segregations.”
For the people of the kuppam, the vizha is a way of bringing to their doorstep art forms that they are rarely allowed to experience. “For us there is no high or low art, sophisticated art and raw art, all art forms are expressions of human experience.”