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The rains and the cyclones that caused a lot of havoc in November have now subsided.  The Migratory birds already started building their nest in Pallikaranai and Vedanthangal.   The heat is bearable;  there is a nip in the air. And the Chennai Music Season is about to begin……………

Chennai Music Season –  The Scene

You will see a Sea-change in the weather and activities of Chennaities in December.   People are no longer sweating.  Men appear on the roads wearing white Dhotis with tilak on their head.  Women are dressed in the brightest of Kanchipuram sarees and adore jewelry.  They look so bright  that you wonder if it is the marriage season.

Every year from December 15th to January 15, a large number of musicians, especially Classical musicians from all over Tamil Nadu, India and abroad congregate in Chennai.    They include renowned artists and beginners who have trained under able Gurus in the field of Music.  These great musicians and artists are here to perform in the most greatest Carnatic Classic show on earth – Chennai Music Season.

Music lovers constitute other musicians, young music learners and the older generations who have been following this routine for the past 5 to 6 decades of their life.  There are even many foreigners, with knowledge of carnatic music,  in this crowd. 

The Festival – Ragas in the Air

In spite of being a cosmopolitan city, Chennai still retains its old world charm.  During December, this trait is seen in full color.   If you are here at this time, you can hear various Carnatic Vocalists, Hari Katha exponents (mythological and historical stories rendered in song format) Carnatic Instrumental musicians and Lec-Dems on music.  Of late you can even get to hear Hindusthani classical music, Ghazals and experimental music.  Dance enthusiasts also present beautifully conceived Dance dramas that are pleasing to the eye and soul.

See Also -   Pongal the Harvest Festival of South India

bharatanatyam photoPhoto by Vineetha Nair

The Music Practitioners and the Audience

The best practitioners of Carnatic music are here to give their concerts in Chennai at this time of the year.   You must have heard of these famous names  who have blazed the world of South Indian Music:

  • Vocalists: MS. Subbalakshmi, D.K.Pattamal, Balamurali Krishna, Semmungudi Srinivasa Iyer, Bombay sisters of the older generation
  • Sudha Raghunathan, Bombay Jayshree, Vishaka Hari, Unni Krishnan  who are the seniors of the present generation
  • Instrumentalists like Chinna Moulana- Nadaswaram, Palaghat mani Iyer – Mridangam, U-Srinivas – Mandolin, Vikku Vinayagam – Ghatam

margazhi photoPhoto by the_gman

There are many more eminent names on these list but unfortunately, my word limit is the biggest deterrent.  Like most of these musicians themselves sing and I  reiterate – “Endaro Mahanubavulu…….. Andareke Vandanamulu” meaning there are so many great human beings and I bow to all of them.

Since most of the programs are classical in nature, connoisseurs of music -the Rasikas, form a big percentage of the audience.  Even so, young artists have found novel ways to bring the young happening crowd to these concerts.  They sometimes choose modern themes on which their concerts are based.  They also make it a point to explain intricacies of the Ragas they are presenting.  So, any person – young or old can enjoy these musical programs even if do not have an inkling as to what is being sung or played.

The Stage

The whole of Chennai is hubub with music during this period.  But the biggest drama is in the center of the City in Mylapore.  More than 2000 individual concerts take place here.  They are conducted at various Sabhas or concert halls located in and around the great Kapaleeshwarar temple.  Some of these include

  1. Madras Music Academy
  2. Narada Gana Sabha
  3. Brahma Gana Sabha
  4. Karthik Fine Arts and many more.
See Also -   Mehendi

Most of these halls can seat about 300 Rasikas who are swept to another world with soul-stirring music.  The bookings of these concerts take place months ago!  These halls vie with each other to get the most popular musician.  The tickets are also sold early.   The audience hops from one sabha to another in order to listen or see their favorite artist in action. Nowadays music concerts are held in open at various parks so that even the poor have access to good music.

While the music session is going on, the Sabha Canteens dish out delicious South Indian breakfast for the crowds assembled.  The canteens are extra busy during the Chennai Music Season.

Ghazal photo  Photo by bseshadri

Dosa, Idli, Boonda, Bajji, Pongal and Puri and other fried or steam stuff along with various desserts like Jalebis and Ubuttu(Bolis) disappear into the mouths of those crowding these stalls.  Steaming cups of Coffee are another draw here.

Overall there is a carnival-like atmosphere thoroughly enjoyed by crowds – young and old.   The festivities go on for 4 to 5 weeks until the end of Tamil Margazhi month. So,  if you are planning to come to Chennai, make sure you do not miss the Chennai Music Season.  The music, the atmosphere, the cool climate and of course food should not be missed!

Featured Photo by the_gman


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