Nov 7, 2008

North American Tour 2008 - Part 2

The Canada weekend
Ottawa, Sept 26 2008
Toronto, Sept 27 2008
Montreal, Sept 28 2008

Canada in so many ways is such an amazing country! A country where people from different ethnic backgrounds co-exist in absolute harmony and freedom, a land of extraordinary beauty and charm. As we discovered, people here stand very little on ceremony. Though elections were just round the corner, there was no hype whatsoever about it. Actually the media were focusing more on the impending US elections! There was a very interesting incident that happened in Montreal as we were driving past one of suburbs. We were idly watching the election posters which were stuck here and there, and looking at the photo of the candidate who was contesting for that area. Imagine our surprise, as we saw the candidate himself standing at the traffic lights, giving out pamphlets! He actually came up to our car and offered a pamphlet with a smile on his face to our host who was driving the car!! In our country, traffic would be halted, roads cordoned off, and security personnel and black cats shielding the politician who would wave distantly to the crowds!!

Though the carnatic listening population in Montreal and Ottawa is limited, the enthusiasm and sincerity with which they listen is indeed heartwarming! The sound engineer for the Ottawa concert was, to our surprise, a young lady. Again the total absence of any kind of gender prejudice or concessions is so striking. Here was this young lady, hauling heavy equipment, running up and down between the stage and the sound booth, confidently handling the controls, and eminently capable of more than holding her own in a field that is generally dominated by men!

Boston, Oct 3 2008
Philadelphia, Oct 4 2008
Columbus, Oct 5 2008

These concerts were right in the middle of Navaratri. Generally, Navaratri is a time for people here to invite friends over for golu, and socialize. Especially when concerts happen during the Navaratri weekend, it is a tough balancing act for most people! Despite this, the turnout for these concerts were substantial. The credit for this must go indeed to the organizers and the rasikas themselves, who despite so many other distractions and commitments, make concert attendance a priority.

The Navavarna kritis of Muthuswamy Dikshitar are gems beyond description, and singing them is a blissful and spiritually elevating experience. But as we sang a few of these songs over the Navaratri weekend, we felt all the more emotionally charged. What greater delight and divine grace could there be!

Augusta, Oct 10 2008

Though the bigger centers can boast of bigger numbers and wider membership base, sometimes it is in the smaller centers that we find people who give so much of their time and efforts in bringing carnatic music to their towns. Augusta is one such small town, where a small group of dedicated carnatic music rasikas devote so much of their resources and energies in making concerts happen. In particular, Dr Dharma, a young professor of mathematics and statistics, lets nothing stand in her way of organizing concerts- health, limited financial resources or any other. She is virtually a one-woman powerhouse, powered by nothing other than sheer love and passion for carnatic music! And organizing a concert here is no mean effort. As the concert was on a Friday, the organizers had to arrange for snacks before the concert, dinner after the concert, in addition to all the other standard concert arrangements! When one thinks of the enormous load of work that goes into making every concert happen, you cannot be but touched by the passion and commitment that people such as Dharma, Dr Manjunath, and the rest of this small group of people have. Hats off to them!

Tampa, Oct 11 2008
Raleigh, Oct 12 2008

Stepping into the warm balmy air of Tampa is a homecoming of sorts! The same goes for Raleigh! The warmth of the climate is evenly matched by that of the people! We were particularly touched when a young child of barely four years of age actually sat through our concert in Raleigh, that too in the first row! It is an interesting fact that the average age of the rasika in USA would probably be 35-40! Not to mention the abundant presence of young children, who stay through the concert and listen with attention and enthusiasm. Back home, we often hear people joke that the audience for carnatic music seem to consist mostly of retired, elderly people!

Seattle, Oct 17 2008

One of the most scenic cities in USA, Seattle must be enjoyed during the summer months when the city is at its most beautiful! Most other times, the weather seems to be dominated by drizzly chilly weather, which has a charm of its own! We did a lecture-demonstration the previous day of our concert on the devotional aspect of carnatic music, with special focus on bhajans and abhangs. This was held at the ISKON temple. We were quite thrilled with the turnout for the event. Interaction with the rasikas always is a very exciting experience. Here, there was an interactive session at the end of the lecture demonstration and the audience showed a lot of interest, asking penetrating questions. As requested by the temple priest, we ended the presentation with a thaalattu song (lullaby) for the deity of the temple Lord Krishna, Madhava Mamava in Nilambari. It was indeed a sweet experience that lingered in our minds.

Los Angeles, Oct 18 2008
San Jose, Oct 19 2008.

The last two concerts of our tour, these were indeed a fitting finale to our North American trip! In fact, the San Jose concert reminded us of the Season concert at The Music Academy, Chennai with the overflowing audience, the hushed atmosphere, and people even sitting on the dais! The only difference was that, here in San Jose and LA, you could sing to your heart's content without having to look at the time, while generally during concerts in Chennai during the Season, one has to be very conscious of sticking to the time limit. Again the profusion of children in the auditorium was such a heartening feature. What better exposure to carnatic music can parents give their children, than getting them to concerts! This only shows the commitment that the parents have. Beyond doubt, there is whole generation of budding musicians in North America who will make a fair bid to change the nucleus of carnatic music from Chennai to America!