CHENNAI: A typical evening at the Elliots beach turned musical! The walkers in sports shoes, cyclists and old men for an evening chat were in for a surprise. Strains of a Tampura and the poster proclaiming Urur Olcott Margazhi Vizha pinned on a car behind the makeshift stage attracted more crowd towards the corner near governor’s bungalow.
Clad in a white T shirt and dhoti, Carnatic musician T M Krishna begins his concert, the curtain raiser to the Urur Olcott Vizha that would take place on January 15 and 16.
The crowd is diverse - the usual concert-going sari-clad ladies, elderly men with walking sticks and decades of raga knowledge, children from the fishing community, the vendors from the beach and passers by. A beggar on crutches drops in, a girl with a bicycle stands for the whole performance. A little boy, quite disoriented by the crowd asks his mother ‘Is this a kutchery?’
As he sings, more people walk in and crane their necks. Some of them sit up as they hear the familiarity of a Bharatiyar song in Tamil.
This concert, Krishna says, is to get the attention of the walkers and the upper class crowd so as to spread the word about the bigger event coming up, which would involve two days of Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam, Kattai Koothu, Villu Paatu by the kids of the Urur Kuppam and more.
“Usually, the music goes only to some places and some people. And some arts are considered superior to others. The point of this festival is to bridge all that,” he explains.
Nedunchezhian, a beach vendor listens intently tapping his hand to the tune. “I have heard a bit of Carnatic music in my hometown but never in Chennai. I do not know ragas but listening to a few songs, I may be able to connect. Anyone who likes music can relish Carnatic,” he says. The Sabhas, he says, are for ‘big people’. But if people perform like this, he is ready to listen.
“This is the first time I am listening to Carnatic music. I am enjoying it though I don’t understand,” says Sudha, a worker at a soap factory. Carnatic music aficionados too sat through and like in any concert hall, exchanged notes on ragas. “I was on my walk and sat down to listen. I must have gone for a 1000 Carnatic concerts in my life and learnt only by listening,” says 78-year-old M S Thirumalai who is from Srivilliputhur. “Carnatic music requires to be taken to all. Right now it is mostly in Chennai while other small places are not on the music map. Many more such concerts are needed to reach out to people,” he says.
The Urur Olcott Vizha would start with a beach clean up on the morning of January 15 and hopes to reach out to an even more diverse audience.