CHENNAI: Visitors to Elliot’s Beach on Sunday had not just the waves of the ocean as well as the breeze to enjoy; they also experienced a wave of ‘oneness,’ as the organisers put it, the theme of ‘Urur Olcott Vizha’.
The curtain-raiser to the festival slated for the month-end featured an open air concert at the beach by T M Krishna and a team of musicians. Over 500 people gathered around the small stage; some watched the entire show and appreciated the nuanced alapanas and some stopped by for a song or two to add music to their stroll along the beach.
At a time when public art is a rarity, the performance drew some enthusiastic onlookers from a cross-section of society, a mix unlikely in any forum other than a public space as inclusive as a Chennai beach.
“I have never attended such a concert, more so because it would have been expensive. Once I got an opportunity to watch a programme in Kalakshetra, but everyone there was very high class. Here, it is not,” says Saravanan, a fisherman from Urur Kuppam and one of the organisers of the event. This is the second year of the event, and a lot has happened in this span of time. “Many of the children from our place including my niece have started going for Bharatanatyam classes.”
The concert was a mix of heavier Carnatic music and alapanas with lighter compositions like Bharathiyar’s ‘Parukulle Nalla Naadu’ and a popular Kannada composition ‘Baaro Krishnaiyya’. Though there are a few who are sceptical about whether the beach is the right place for a music concert, the flexibility of attending an open concert was well appreciated, with many fans gathering backstage to click photos with Krishna after the concert. “This is a fantastic ambience for music. It is airy and easy to sit through and there are no rigid restrictions like front rows and VIP seats,” says Chitra, a Carnatic music buff, who is attending the concert with her family
Deepika, a 13-year old from Urur Olcott Kuppam, who will be participating in the ‘Villu Paatu’ performance adds,“The festival helps us realise that all arts are for everyone. Not that certain people cannot take part in certain kinds of art. I like all kinds of music and am enjoying this concert too.”
But the aim of the concert is not just to bring Carnatic music to the masses and give people a different ambience. The organisers want to bring out holed-in arts of different communities together to one platform. “We are all usually stuck inside a well, including myself, of our kind of art. But all arts are beautiful and need to talk to each other,” says Krishna. Carnatic music, Paraiyattam, rock music, Kattai Koothu... a hierarchy-of-sorts has put these arts in different places, he believes. “We need to at least listen to different forms before deciding ours is superior.”
The spirit of humanity and equality that Chennai showed during the floods, Krishna says, should be carried forward. “During the floods, everyone helped each other, irrespective of what kind of house they had or what kind of car they owned. But now, we seem to have forgotten not just the floods but also the spirit of equality that came with it.”
The upcoming festival will honour three groups of people who played a vital role in rescue and bringing the city back to normal - the fishermen, the youth of Chennai, and the conservancy workers, apart from a line-up of performances from different art forms.