CHENNAI: The monsoon rains have not just flooded Chennai and its neighbourhood, but have also hit the Margazhi festival this year. After close to a century of tradition, a section of top artistes in the Carnatic music circuit said they were cancelling their performances as it was too ‘insensitive’ a time to sing or dance.
To purists who feel this move would tarnish the longstanding tradition of the December music festival, dancer Anita Ratnam said, “If the season is a 100-year-old tradition, then the flood has come after a 100 years!”
Urging fellow performers to follow suit, she posed a no-nonsense question on social media, “Artistes...choose your city or yourself.”
Similarly, Bombay Jayashri posted on Facebook: “I have cancelled my concerts this Margazhi season. Chennai, which has always supported the art, is now battling the aftermath of torrential rains, rescue teams and volunteers are working day and night. With so many people struggling for basic needs, I feel it is not the time for festivals.”
She added: “I sincerely hope the resources used to back the festival are channelised to bring Chennai back to normalcy.”
Others like classical dancers Priya Murle and Sudharani Raghupathy, too, confirmed they were cancelling their performances.
Many artistes have been encouraging their friends in the industry to consider the losses residents of ‘Namma’ Chennai were facing, instead. And like Anita Ratnam and Bombay Jayashri, many have made their stand public by taking to social media.
When contacted, organisers, who had allocated slots for musicians across over a dozen sabhas in the city months in advance, told Express they hope to get the concerts back on schedule as soon as possible.
Secretary of Kartik Fine Arts, Rajagopal Sekhar said, “Between clearing flooded auditoriums and cancelled concerts because of the heavy rains, we have already lost a lot of money.”
And of course, given the havoc that thousands find their lives in post-floods, it was no surprise that ticket sales were at an all-time low.
The Margazhi festival was started in December 1927 event to commemorate the founding of the Madras Music Academy. The event was widely accepted and patronised by a large number of people. This culture was adopted by various other sabhas that hold art festivals in different parts of the city.