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The sa-re-ga-ma of marketing

Saregama, HMV's new avatar, has many new ideas and surprises in store. An interview with Chandrika Raman, who manages these new initiatives

Saregama India, the Indianised avatar of the grand old music house HMV, has stepped up its efforts to popularise and market Karnatak music.

There is currently a revival of interest in Karnatak music, with the number of rasikas and those learning the art increasing. Lovers of this art, including  foreigners, non-resident Indians or youth, form a strong constituency that is encouragement for all those connected with it.

"In the '80s, Karnatak music suffered a set-back, but now there is renewed interest and the whole scene has changed", says Chandrika Raman, Manager, Product/Public Relations, Gramophone Company of India.

In an interview with www.themusicmagazine.com , Chandrika spoke of the new ideas her company is pursuing.

Saregama is engaged in many projects, ranging from archiving to appreciation, in collaboration with the Music Academy, Chennai's premier music sabha.

For starters, Saregama India has taken possession of live concerts in the Academy. The sabha has agreed to offer first rights to the audio company for all concerts. Of course, HMV will also have to negotiate with the individual artiste, but the step is commendable as live recordings often suffer from poor sound. This is something HMV should be able to overcome with its experience and equipment.

This agreement does not cover concerts organised by other sabhas or institutions in the Music Academy premises.

The second major initiative is to tap the rich archives of music available with the Music Academy. Under a memorandum of understanding signed recently, the company will acquire the rights to the spool tapes available with the academy, convert them into CDs and then market them.

While other companies have already launched similar projects, the advantage for HMV lies in the huge repertoire of the Music Academy. Chandrika says the effort will involve anything from 800 to 1,000 tapes.

HMV also has its own clean-up equipment and does not have to go outside for this job.

Appreciation of Karnatak music is another priority area. Vedavalli's Manodharma Sangeetham series and other such titles, aimed at the music student, are doing very well in the market, says Chandrika. 

Theme packs are another new idea. These bring together artistes belonging to different generations. A five CD pack on Shyama Sastry compositions is already out. M S Subbulakshmi, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, D K Jayaraman, D K Pattammal, Balamurali -- the list of singers reads like a "who's who" in Karnatak music. Younger musicians too are represented. 

Another such pack presents flute recitals, while the mridangam is featured in yet another. 

Chandrika senses other needs. Sometimes when people listen to a short Todi by a particular artiste, they want to listen to the whole raga alapana. They call her up and ask if the unedited version is available. She now plans to explore this idea and see if such cassettes can be brought out for the connoisseur. "I have to work on this idea still", she cautions with a smile!

Saregama has also started publishing booklets on various artistes, listing out their songs brought out by the company. Instead of scanning rows and rows of cassettes to look for what they want, listeners can now check out these booklets to identify cassettes and CDs they want to buy.

Looks like the dynamic Chandrika and her team of classical music experts plan to keep the excitement high!

Ambujam Anantharaman


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