SESSION : BUILDING BRIDGES WITH THE AUDIENCE
Smt. Shruti Sadolikar - Katkar
Much has been said about the challenges and audience till now. This allows me to go to my subject directly.
I ways say my concert beings from the moment I accept the concert. What do I look for in the audience? The audience could be connoisseurs, rasikas, gurus of other gharanas, as well as of my gharana, students of music, including my own shishyas, critics, performers, organizers, and laymen, these could be Indians or foreigners. Once I commit to a concert, I know I have to give my best to the audience. Giving a concert is an art of music making, perfected with each concert. The main artist and the accompanists make the music together as a team, where the audience is an integral part of the picture.
In the past, musicians practised so much that the practice itself became their God, their workship. And they sang for listeners, who had cultivated the art of listening from their early days. However, today the performing musicians have a heterogeneous audience in cities, unlike the homogeneous and comparatively smaller audiences of the courts in the past. In order to make the concert a success, the artist has to adopt different strategies. It cannot be for art’s sake. One cannot sing for ‘one’s own inner satisfaction’ and not care how the audience receives the music. If you want to please yourself, you can close your eyes and get into a trance, why bother to leave the privacy of the home?
Music is a system of ideas, which flourishes from, transforms in and as Newman says, relates to the sensibilities of a people. To reach out to the people the artist has to utilixe a variety of media and must remain accessible to the media agents. There are occasions when the artist knows that type of audience will be awaiting him or her, but more often than not the audience is a mixture of listeners, passers by, curious onlookers and other organizers, etc. irrespective of this, the artist has to please the audience. Please he must, but without compromising the basic values of his music culture. Music is expected to speak to the people and about the people. It is said that ‘music is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable. Musical creator is a being comparable to the Gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man’
From an artist's point of view
There are a variety of occasions for having a music concert. There are anniversaries (Punyatithi) of saintly, well-known musicians or poineers of Gharanas The artist can select suitable Ragas and compositions or can sing Ragas and compositions created by the particular celebrity, which will go with the mood of the celebration Sometimes the event may feature just one or two artists or if it is a festival for more than one day it may have more artists. On such occasions the artist has to depend on his stock of repertoire. Some artists don't mind repeating the same Ragas or compositions that have already been heard by the listeners in the festival. This I think should be avoided in order to ignite and retain the curiosity and interest of the listeners Some artists are found to be repeating their commercially successful recordings again and again so as not to risk the audience's response to something new.
At times, the organizers are quite aware of the composition of the audience and accordingly they can request the artist to adjust his/her repertoire. Certain artists may not posses a vast variety of forms, suitable for certain occasions, then she / he may well refuse to accept the concert. However, if one is a thoroughly trained musician as they called in the past 'choumukha gavaiyya', he may have received proper training in singing dhrupad, dhamar, khayal, tarana. chaturang, thumri, dadra. bhajan. etc. this will be the artist's plus point where he can win the hearts of all types of audiences. Various music societies also organize chamber concerts for their members. Here the number of audience may be smaller than big festivals but the quality of the listeners can be more or less relied upon. At times, certain Bujurg (knowledgeable) connoisseurs are specifically invited and this poses a big challenge to the artist. Good audience definitely helps generate a good performance. An artist appreciates and desires the presence of well-informed listeners, who in turn make him give his best. In mehfils or smaller halls the intimacy helps to build a communication. The audience mostly sits in the dark chances are the artist may also remain in the dark about the effect of his music on the audience. I prefer at least a dimly lit auditorium, where I can see the audience nodding, smiling, appreciatively gesticulating or... snoring!! The light in the auditorium and the light in the eyes of my audience guides me through the wonderful world of music.
However, this is not possible on alternative platforms like Television and Radio, Here the artist has to plan the menu in advance keeping in mind the time factor, The same applies while recording for private or commercial albums, Since audience is not present before the artist, she or he should rely solely on her/his judgement to deliver the goods.
If the time for presentation is limited, it helps to plan the menu before hand, The raga and even the rhythm and tempo also have a vital role to play. For example, the vilambit cannot possibly be extended for a long time. Judging by the circumstances, the artiste can start with a brisk madhyalaya khyal, followed by a drut which holds the attention of the audience. Even a layperson cannot resist the pull of the fast tempo and get swayed by it.
When the audience comprises people from different cultural backgrounds who speak different languages, it is essential that they be informed about the text, meaning and a few theoretical facts about the repertoire. In my concerts abroad, I make it a point to explain the composition and also give basic information about the accompanying instruments, because even in India at times you find people mistaking a tanpura for a sitar !!
Many a times, the looks, the clothes and the jewellery of the artist is so impressive that lay listeners are taken in by them. Most important is how the artist presents himself or herself. The cleanliness and simplicity of soul must outshine glittering jewellery.
I would like to remember Pandit Omkamath Thakur here. Before he arrived, the stage was prepared with care for him. A mattress covered with bright red velvet sheet with gold embroidery was his baithak. He arrived majestically, his hair like a lion's mane reaching his shoulders, complete with heavily embroidered silk kurta and silk dhoti. Most important was his music matched his majestic walk. Another musician I fondly and respectfully remember is Surashree Kesarbai Kerkar. Before commencing the concert she would take a good look at the audience, judge them for their worth as listeners and then start.
What can a good organizer do ?
As you know, an artist alone is not responsible for a concert. There are other key players like organizers, sponsors, media, etc. which play a prominent role in a successful concert. Even the auditorium, amplification facilities, seating arrangement, air-conditioning, stage or platform, decorations, ticket rates have an impact. To begin with, the organizer should pay attention to the venue. Whether the ambience is right? Is it safe? Is the traffic noise minimum? The pricing of ticket is also an important factor. The pricing can reflect the popularity of the artist. It also should be done considering the size of the auditorium. In short, the pricing should be justified.
Voice culture and production has undergone a noticeable change in the recent past. Enough number of microphones and a feedback through monitors should be provided well before the commencement of the concert. Balance should be tested well in advance. Compering should be meaningful. It should be long enough & short enough and to the point, avoiding flowery language, and sher-shayari. The sher- shayari should not try the patience of the audience, & should make the introduction authentic. If there is a function like felicitation, book release, etc., it shouldn’t be between concerts, as it mostly breaks the link in the minds of performer and the audience. In festivals, order of the artists is very important. It should reflect the age, status of the artists, I must warn that seniority judged by the colour of hair is not always a foolproof method!
If there is a jugalbandi, it should ideally be a pair of artists belonging to the same gharana or school, trained by the same guru, where audience will get a multifaceted view of the form of music presented. Jugalbandi should be complementary and not a show of one overpowering the other.
The accompanists must be made aware of their role in music – making so that they do not compel the main artist to resort to cheap gimmicks and lure the gallery.
In many festivals the same popular and crowdpulling artists are invited again and again. The sponsors don’t like to encourage the other talented but lesser known artists and take risk. On top of it, the organizers are not even bothered whether these artists presents the same repretoire year after year. Here, one who suffers the most is the real connoisseur and students of music, whose desire to listen to something new and qualitively good remains unfulfilled.
Critics and Media
I would also like to talk about the responsibilities of media and critics. A critic must try to educate the layman with positive criticism. What I mean is that, addition to the review of a concert, he should also write more about music and music culture which will generate interest among the common listener. He can also influence the media, which often gives step – motherly treatment to classical art forms. More often than than not a trainee journalist passes off as a critic. It is not uncommon for such critics to turn to the audience to find out the same of the raga that is being performed. A recent trend is to include some big Popular Artists among regular page three deities, which does little to serve the cause of the art.
Role of the classical art is to bring the common man to the level of understanding. The art should inspire a layman to take the trouble to learn more to transcend the limits. However, dilution of art shouldn’t be the way to ridge the gap. If the artist stoops to conquer, there wouldn’t be any CLASSICISM left in any art.
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