Saturday, February 25, 2023

Music under rain trees

The stage is set for an evening of music. It is not often one gets to listen to an eclectic mix of Meera's bhajans, baul singers, a kora performer from The Gambia, devrishes from Turkey and qawwali singers all on one evening. It made sense to get in early and grab the best seats in the house for this performance a couple of weeks ago. 

The 'house' for performances of Ruhaniyat, an annual multi-city music festival, is more often than not an open space rather than an auditorium. The acoustics tend to get a little messy due to that, but the slow darkness enveloping the stage adds to the mysticism of the event. Sounds of nature - parakeets getting back home at twilight - mix with the music. After the first couple of times that aircraft passing overhead distracted us, that buzz disappeared. Ruhaniyat was quite a performance indeed. 

When the organisers started this of this festival in 2001, they were apparently told that it would not be well received in Chennai, probably because of the stereotyped image of the city's fascination for Margazhi season. Thankfully, they were not dissuaded and Ruhaniyat has now become a part of Chennai's annual music calendar; an extension of the Margazhi season, or maybe a counterpoint to it, to savour both better. For me, it was nice to see a programme conceptualised by Banyan Tree Events being held under the rain trees of the Madras Race Club!

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