CHENNAI: Almost two years ago, when Akhila Krishnamurthy launched Aalaap, a Chennai-based performing arts initiative, one of its objectives included taking classical performing arts to non-traditional venues, apart from bringing in a younger audience. Akhila says, “The idea stemmed from the fact that in many ways, today, we live in an experiential world. For performances, the environment and ambience have become very important.”
After organising close to 60 shows at venues like yoga studios and art galleries, she adds that the reason has been to rope in the non-classicist audience that is intimidated by the kutcheri setting. “From the audience perspective, these are people who are younger and not the kind that are seen at sabhas,” she states.
Classical singer Swarna Rethas, who recently performed at the Leela Galleria in Leela Palace, at a show organised by Apparao Galleries says that taking performances outside their conventional venues makes it lot more intimate, unlike a kutcheri at a sabha or a concert hall. He also adds that though the spot may be unconventional, it still aims at presenting music in its original form.
“It is only that we don’t know what to expect in such a set up. But it is again the same format that comprises the raagams, aalapanais and swarams without diluting the sound. The time allotted varies from one hour to two hours,” he adds.
Renowned violinist and singer Padma Shankar says that the best part of singing in non-performative spaces is that the artiste knows that the audiences aren’t coming there exclusively to listen to him or her. “The show we had at Gallery Veda celebrated both arts and music,” she explains.
Carnatic vocalist Sushma Somasekharan, who has been an active performer in the shows curated by Aalaap, says that at a venue outside the sabhas, the performer has an added responsibility of catering to an uninitiated audience. She strikes a contrast, “Traditional kutcheris have a well-informed audience. However, a performance that moves beyond the usual spots strives to make Carnatic music more accessible. It is possible that these audiences go back thinking that Carnatic music isn’t as difficult to understand as they deem it to be.”
The Nageshwara Rao Park in Mylapore, that has been a haunt for joggers, morning walkers and yoga practitioners is also now a hot spot for music — thanks to an initiative called Sunday Kutcheri in the Park organised by Sundaram Finance. Held on the first Sunday of every month for the last eight years, the event has encouraged classical singers under 15 by offering a performance stage.
TT Srinivasaraghavan, MD, Sundaram Finance says that the concept is spin-off from the Mylapore Festival. “The stress is on mikeless concerts for two reasons: not to disturb the peace of the morning walkers with loud music and to help children shed their inhibitions.” he says. Over the years, close to a thousand participants from not just Chennai but other parts of the world like the US and the Middle East have been on this stage. “And some of them have gone on to become successful singers,” he adds with a smile.