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Season's gratings

Rotating the stars

With all the outcry over evening slots for musicians during the December season -- Mylapore Fine Arts Club has had four of its regular artistes opting out because of squabbles over prime slots -- the prestigious Music Academy has set in place what they call a rotation system.

An artiste who sang in the 7.30 pm slot last year has to shift to the morning slot this year, while those who were in the early evening position in 1999 will move to the late evening, and so on.

They say they have no option but to go in for such a system with the number of artistes steadily burgeoning.

Some big artistes who refused to comply have simply been dropped this year.

Well, what these artistes are asking is, how come there are some who are never disturbed year after year?

The answer seems to be that all artistes are equal but some are more equal than others!

Sibling revelry and rivalry

With all the dazzling sibling duos occupying the Karnatak music stage today, one would think it's a family business running on the smoothest of wheels.

Not so, aver one of the senior-most among such pairs who have been together for nearly 40 years now.

They say that among today's deadly brother-brother or sister-sister combos, there exists an underlying rivalry, which can be noticed on stage by a keen eye. Most often, one among the two, either because of more talent, better presentation or sheer strength of personality, will dominate the kutcheri. This is seen in the singing or playing of alapana, neraval, swaras, etc.

Why does the subordinate partner not object? It is because he or she wants to keep the act going at all cost?

As for the said pair, they say that between them they take immense care to see that no heartburn arises. For instance, if one sings the raga for the pallavi in this year's Music Academy concert, the other would have sung the main raga in last year's concert. Each sings according to personal strength. Since one prefers the weightier ragas and the other the more "glamorous ones", it is a good symphony on stage.

Missing the drone acharyas

Musicians no longer carry to concerts the unwieldy tambura, difficult to accommodate on flights or even trains. A tambura player is becoming a rare sight even in local concerts and has been replaced by the ubiquitous electronic sruthi box.

Musicians going abroad, one hears, carry anything upto 10 sruthi boxes and sell them there to Indian and non-Indian music students. The boxes, which cost Rs 2,000 in the retail market, are sold in the US for 100 dollars, and the profit is split between the retailer and the musician.

There is already a substantial margin for the retailer in these "sruthi pottis", as they are obtained from the manufacturer at wholesale prices. One also hears that retailers often ask customers to go in for cheaper imitations, which copy the original circuits but make some minor alterations to escape patent laws.

The most popular manufacturer of these sruthi boxes, based in Bangalore, is a registered small scale unit conforming to regulations of the government, while an imitator from Mumbai is reportedly violating norms merrily.

Naturally then, when the Bangalore maker opened his own showroom in Chennai last Sunday, not many retailers or musicians were seen singing to his sruthi.

Padma Ranganathan

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