Marghazi In A Submerged City: Tis The Season?
This past Monday, the Music Academy – Chennai’s age old institution for the Classical and performing arts – released a Press Release supported by the city’s leading music organizations and sabhas conveying that they would go ahead as planned with their programming for the upcoming Marghazi season, despite the recent floods. The list includes prominent venues like Narada Gana Sabha, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Tamil Isai Sangam and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan all confirming their involvement, in addition to the Music Academy itself. As stated in the release, “We express our full solidarity with the tens of thousands of suffering people and have decided to dedicate this Marghazi season to them. Our sincere thanks are due to the artistes who have already expressed their generous intention to donate a portion or their whole renumeration to relief funds”.
Under normal circumstances, the Marghazi season is a time of colour and creation – a festive celebration of music, drama and dance hosting over 3000 concerts and performances with over 200 artists, the city’s largest cultural event of the year. This year, however, the usually spirited festival is cloaked in shades of grey. “The floods have dampened the spirits of Marghazi – it’s normally an absolutely celebration, we used to look forward to it” says Classical violinist Padma Shankar, “And for me, music is about joy and connecting with myself – and imbibing this spirit into my listeners. I’m still happy to play though because music can uplift and bring out your innermost emotions, but I miss the enthusiasm that I would have had otherwise. My performances will be more internal, meditative, less exuberant”.
Though for many the shows must go on, other musicians have made the decision to pull out completely from their performances, notably Bombay Jayshree who stated on her Facebook page – “I have cancelled my concerts this Margazhi season. Chennai, which has always supported art, is now battling the aftermath of torrential rains. Rescue teams and volunteers are working day and night! With so many people homeless and struggling for basic needs, I feel it is not the time for festivals. I sincerely hope the resources and energies used to back the December festival are channelised to help Chennai get back to normalcy.”
Many are cautioning against travelling to Chennai, citing reasons like sanitation, risk of disease, and adding further burden to the city’s already beaten infrastructure. “Many of the NRI attendees who normally flock to Chennai for the festival have cancelled their trips” continues Shankar.
For others, however, cancelling their performances means doling out an even bigger hit to institutions and individuals in the city who have already sustained huge losses during the floods. Well known Bharatanatyam costume designer D.S. Aiyyelu lost his shop to the floods, which damaged several costumes and all the heavy duty machinery – amounting to losses of over 8 lakhs, says one of the workers. Cancelled performances means fewer artists ordering costumes from individuals like Aiyyelu who depend on the business generated from the Classical arts for their livelihoods in the city.
“So many people are sustained because of concerts,”says Classical Carnatic vocalist Gayathri Venkataraghavan, “People who repair instruments, design costumes, right from the mic man to the canteen person to organizers and people who look after the sabhas – there are so many people involved, there is revenue in this for everyone, so I think at a time when things are low we should be creating revenue. I had more than 6 feet of water in my house and lost all my possessions on the ground floor – I went ahead with my concerts because it involves many people, not just me. We should go on, and show resilience”.
View the full Marghazi season performance schedule here.