It is the December music season at Chennai and all of us rasikas are in our Kangaroo avatar hopping from one sabha to next. But what saddens me is that there is a Friday-evening-Satyam-theatre kind of rush for certain concerts while certain afternoon concerts have as much crowd as the bus stop opposite Theosophical Society at Besant Avenue. Nobody knows it is there and nobody stops there, not even the buses.
The afternoon slots are usually reserved for junior and sub-junior musicians and possibly the audience are too hoity-toity to appear in their best silks at a “junior” concert. The poor afternoon musicians sing to empty chairs with such gusto that if I were a chair, I would lift my two arms and applaud them heartily. However, some smart parents of certain afternoon musicians had ensured a decent crowd by pressing relatives and friends into attending the concert. As you enter the hall, you feel you are intruding a family get together like a seemandham or punyajanam. “Where is Kappu living now? Was Kalli’s delivery normal?” and such talk abound. Two people (presumably father and uncle) go around welcoming and thanking people. You almost expect them to tell you, “kandippa saptutu daan ponum” (please have food before leaving). During the concert, one lady leaned forward and I thought she was going to ask “who on the stage are you related to?” like they ask in weddings “which side do you belong? Girl or boy?” Thankfully she only wanted to know the raga. Yet not all relatives and friends are as obliging and something has to be done about these performances which have more people on the stage than in the seats.
I am not going to make any serious suggestion here like switch the senior musicians’ concerts to the afternoon slots because they get their audience anyway and/or don’t spread so many concerts across so many sabhas, it only thins the attendance etc. These suggestions have been made by many to deaf ears and therefore I shall not waste further time. Instead I have a new set of suggestions.
Just as certain sitcoms have a laughter track running behind, the sabha people can switch on an applause track at appropriate moments to create a feeling of audience. But usually the organizers themselves are not present. So they may have to train the mike man to do it, only that the mike man, in the event of being tone deaf may switch on the applause track at inappropriate moments like when the vocalist is sipping milk or when he has lost a beat stupidly or when he is glaring at the violinist for a goof up. Still, some sound of applause is better than none.
Secondly the backs of the chair can be painted on to resemble human beings in seated posture. From the stage it would look like the chairs are people. And if the arms of the chairs can be robotically programmed to lift and applaud at the end of every song on cue, it would even be better.
Thirdly those rare few who enter the hall should be given ping pong balls cut in halves with the orbs of the eye painted on it. You see, most people fall asleep insensitively sitting in the very first row. These people can press the ping pong orbs onto their eyes and go to sleep while the performers sing rest assured that they have an audience who are listening “wide eyed” with surprise at their incredible talent.
Once I invited my friend at Royapuram for a book reading of mine and he said he would come if I gave him, “noor rooba, kaila kuska” (Rs.100 and a packet of Kuska in hand, which is apparently what politicians give to bribe voters). I think afternoon slot musicians should contact my friend at Royapuram.
The above article was published in my "Loony Life" column two weeks ago.