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Netting the raga live
Identifying a raga within seconds of an artiste going into a song has been a challenging vocation for many a traditionalist among concert-goers. You can notice your neighbour in the audience sport a furtive smile the moment he/she spots the raga right.

Time was when the audience had no ready aid on hand to solve the raga conundrum. Somewhere along, things have changed. And, rasikas have started coming into sabhas holding tiny raga guides. At the beginning of each song, they will quietly take a quick peep into the little book tugged inside their pockets and zero in on the right raga, much to the discomfort of `lay neighbours’ on either side. Well, this is the age of Net. Move over books/guides. Mobile phones are here. A mere press of a button is enough to get you raga info instantly. During Bombay Jayashri’s concert for Kalarasana at Rani Seethi Hall on December 21, this young couple in one of the front rows used their mobile handset to Google-search the ragas. One is reminded of the creative Fevical ad on the television, which brings out tellingly the ingenuity of the guy who uses the nook to catch fish.

Premium tag
Top artistes run full houses this season too. Fans of assorted sorts queue up to listen to leading stars. Sabhas indeed face tough time managing their concerts. Some committed rasikas of these star artistes are even willing to pay super premium to get `accommodation’. Well, it is good to know Carnatic musicians – at least the super stars, among them - command a premium price tag. Surely, the concert scene has come a long way in Chennai.

Carnatic vocalists K.J. Yesudas and Aruna Sairam have a knack of nurturing their fan constituencies. Their friendly interface with their fans has often seen them extend their concert time. They don’t mind this. And, their fans, too, want this. Listeners often hand out their list of songs. More often than not, the two artistes fulfill their requests. This bonhomie ensures capacity audience at their concerts. Communicators par excellence, indeed.

A listener's choice!
Flautist Tiruvarur Swaminathan had this funny experience to share. Once he was playing in a marriage concert. The host of the marriage, who was listening to the concert even as he was running here and there to receive the guests, approached him halfway through the concert with a wish to hear Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Sankarabharanam. Swaminathan felt a little tense, as he had to prepare a pallavi in Sankarabharanam with an appropriate tala instantly. He informed his fellow musicians to be prepared for the Sankarabharanam (RTP). He sang the pallavi in Sankharabhranam and came to the conclusion of the concert. As he was about to sing mangalam, the host again approached Swaminathan and asked him to play Sankharbharanam. Taken by surprise, Swaminathan told him that he had played it only just a while ago. But the host insisted that he did not hear him play that. Well, what the host had in his mind was the song `ragam, tanam, pallavi…’ from the film Sankarabharanam!

Ahiri & flute Mali
Mahalingam, popularly known as the Flute Mali, was an artiste par excellence. He led a simple and easy life. The genius lived in a world of his own and never cared for others' comments. Yet, rasikas always made a beeline for his concerts and were soaked in music rain while they listened to his flute recital.

There is an interesting anecdote about maverick Mali. Once he was playing at a marriage concert. He was apparently at his jovial best. All of a sudden, Mali decided to play ragam “Ahiri”. There is a belief that Ahiri ragam - if sung - will deny food for the mouths. Notwithstanding appeals from accompanying artistes, Mali went ahead and played Ahiri raag elaborately. That particular day, the cooked food was being brought to the marriage hall from another place in a bullock cart. After the concert had ended, everyone was readying for the meal. But they could not have the meal as the bullock cart that was carrying the cooked food turned turtle and the entire stock spilled on the road! The people assembled at the marriage hall were forced to wait for nearly 2 to 3 hours until fresh food was prepared and brought to the hall. This incident, recalled by a disciple of Mali, brings out not just the Ahiri ragam's power to deny food but also the audacity of the genius flautist to defy convention.
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