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Showcasing Carnatic music's brightest

December 16, 2008
Come December and the month of Margazhi, the air in Chennai has only one flavour, and that is music.

While people in other parts of India are still debating terror attacks, terrorists and elections, this is one time in Chennai when talk of music and dance overpower everything else.

Days before the arrival of the month of Margazhi itself, sabhas (clubs), musicians and rasikas (fans) get ready to welcome the most interesting days of the year. There is an unusual coolness in the air and the smell of jasmine flowers waft through the air and the Kancheepuram silk saris rustle in the aisles.

This is one month when the sound of music, violin, mridangam, flute and chilanga come out of most homes too. Even the most non-musical person is forced to hum saint-composer Thyagaraja's entharo mahanubhavalu. That is the power of Carnatic music this time of the year. One still remembers what legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer said about the old Margazhi days. "I can't help but remember my days in my village, Semmangudi. People walked along the streets blowing conches and singing bhajans in praise of God. Even in Chennai, we used to hear bhajans and the sound of conch in the mornings. As a young boy, I used to go behind the singers. Everything has changed now..."

Yes, times have changed from the days Semmangudi was young. Today, there are thousands of musicians -- old and young -- performing from morning till evening during Margazhi.

More than a decade ago, there was a kind of cynicism in the air. That was the time sabhas were empty except for the elderly population. But in the last few years, there has seen a remarkable transformation in the classical music scene in Chennai. No longer are the sabhas empty, no longer are the rasikas only the geriatric, no longer are the days devoid of excitement.

Semmangudi said, "Sangeetham (music) has moved from the villages to the cities. Now, you see a lot of women singing Carnatic music. You now see many people singing our sangeetham in America too. Sangeetham has crossed the oceans and that is the magic of our music. That is why I feel this art will never die."

Like never before, young musicians are performing every day, and young rasikas are filling the sabhas to see youngsters like themselves sing keerthanas and play traditional classical instruments. The advent of young musicians has renewed the interest of young rasikas too. These youngsters are like any other youngster of today; they study business administration, play cricket and also follow their passion that has been a part of our cultural scene for centuries.

To salute the youth power in the field of Carnatic music scene, presents a few bright young musicians to celebrate this year's Margazhi festival.

We start with the brightest: Sikkil Gurucharan.

Text: Shobha Warrier | Images: Gurucharan's photo and video: Sreeram Selvaraj

Also see: In memory of Thyagaraja

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