The December Music Season has come to a close, and it’s been interesting in many ways. For one, several once-popular accompanying instruments have disappeared from the scene. A little investigative journalism revealed that one such instrument found its way out because a sardarji went to a sabha canteen and asked for buttermilk. They were all out, so the waiter yelled, “No more-Singh!” Then there was this lady from America, who ran out of trousers to wear to concerts, and her sobs reportedly prompted a musician to burst into that most sympathetic of ragas, Pant-over Allie. (There’s a related anecdote about this vain Tamil girl who began to oil her plaits in the middle of a katcheri and caused the singer to burst into an angry Care-a-hair-a-Priya, but we’ll save that story for another time.)

But what this season will be remembered for the most is the sheer volume of questions in the minds of the rasikas. For instance: Do ghatam players, after a really good performance, give themselves a pot on the back? Did any of the fusion concerts have the vocalist crooning, “Kriti woman, walking down the street...?” If there’s an intermission in a vocal concert, will the two halves be called Part One and paattu? Are the ladies in the audience allowed to stay for the segment involving man-o-dharma? Do dentists enjoy the pal-avi the most? And ophthalmologists the alapan-eye? And bartenders the swa-rum? And still photographers the padam? And the Japanese the san-gati?

In the Wild West, did they listen to the gun-jeera? Do boxers train while playing the punch-a-ratna kritis? In the cowsheds, do they hear the mri-dung-um? Is any instrument scarier than the tam-boo-ra? Is Anbumani Ramadoss going to ban the Music Season, because it makes everyone addicted to sangee-dhum? Will America ever issue a visa to “Bomb”ay Jayashree? Are there officially-registered singers other than “TM” Krishna? How come only a few ragas have names that acknowledge the people who invented them, e.g. By-Ravi? (And has this Ravi chappie invented anything else?)

And speaking of ragas, is it true that a famous raga was discovered entirely by accident, when students walked into a biology lab one morning and exclaimed at the alphabetised amphibian exhibits: “Toad-E!” (Or was it the trainees in the forensic department, who walked past dismembered body parts, and stopped at “Toe-D?”) Do doctors really prescribe that insomniacs listen to Kal-yawn-i? Are iron-deficient patients advised to play Keera-vani? Do corporate houses, during team-building exercises, encourage listening to Combo-ji? And in offices where the staff wears casual clothes to work, do the music vents air Not-tie? Is Harbhajan Singh’s favourite raga really Bowl-i? And if you’ve read this far and feel like killing me, will you do so to the strains of “Yaman” Kalyan?

An article by Bharadwaj Rangan
From The Economic Times - Madras Plus
January 26, 2005

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