May 25, 2020
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M. Balamuralikrishnan

On the Chennai music season and the state of classical music

M. Balamuralikrishnan
M. Balamuralikrishnan
You rarely perform during the season these days. Why?
I consider myself retired!

In spite of so many sabhas and concerts, why aren't the audience attracted?
It is a good thing. The more the merrier. Artists now have lots of opportunities. Today, like political parties, they have proliferated.

Should artistes stick to the compositions of the trinity (Thyagaraja, Dikshitar, Shyama Sastri)?
Whose compositions did Thyagaraja sing? His own. Performing artists can't be composers. You can't preserve tradition by straightjacketing it.

Carnatic classical has not become as popular as Hindustani. Why?
The reasons are primarily political, the general bias towards north. Hindustani is in fact an offshoot of Carnatic. But they do pay much better up north.

Even top-ranking singers get paid only Rs 5,000 here.
I doubt if they pay even that much.

Has film music helped popularise Carnatic?
On the contrary, several film music singers seem to have taken to Carnatic. Even I sang for films, but only when I liked the story, context, tune, lyric. And I gave only one take.

What about awards and institutions like the Music Academy?
Time was when the coveted Sangita Kalanidhi was decided by musicians. Today an executive committee, without any musician, makes decisions.

Tell us about your music therapy?
I cannot share the secret. I've tried it on friends even without their knowledge.

Does it work?
It does. There's nada (musicality) in every human being and that is the prana (life).

Has Carnatic music remained a Brahmins-only art-form?
Even in my days only two of ten were non-Brahmin musicians. I don't think caste in music is an issue. It is incidental.

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