The basic To-Do checklist of every classical (Carnatic) music fan in Chennai would include attending a series of concerts in the months of December – January. The city is famous for hosting a lot of concerts, dance performances, and becomes the capital city of all things art during the famed Tamil month of Maargazhi. The halls and the auditoriums in the city are packed with ‘standing space only’ as concerts and performances take place back to back, with a day holding anywhere between two to five of them.
For a girl who has lived all her life in Chennai and has developed a love for Carnatic music through a unique combination of genetically transferred passion and acquired interest, I had not gone to any sort of concerts until recently. Despite the limitless number of available options, I had never really given much thought to attending concerts in real, instead preferring to hear all those famous songs by other means including audio discs / internet videos.
But chance presented itself in the most curious of forms. A friend who had heard this from me, demanded with righteous indignation about why I’d never gone to a concert despite loving classical music. The passes were quickly acquired, the concert day planned carefully and I was finally sitting in a comfortable seat, watching none other than one of my favourite classical (and playback) singers, Smt. Jayashri Ramnath performing.
Excitement at its peak, I attended the concert, in equal measures awed and thrilled. Rather than commenting on the individual songs, I just took back the experience as a whole. Though I may not remember what song was sung first, I would remember the mellow and strong voice that rendered music that touched my soul. I may not have seen enough performances to comment on the styles and nuances, but I would forever cherish the memory of how, in the breaks between the songs, I enjoyed the percussionist and the violinist showcasing their talents.
The highlight of the day was, when, after the concert, my friend and I debated for a long moment, throwing our hesitation and inhibition to the winds and walking downwards towards the stage while everyone else climbed the stairs to reach the exits. Our gleeful run to the backstage happened by pushing amongst crowds of people who probably wondered what we were doing walking the other way round. The efforts were worth it, though, and I returned with two things I would cherish all my life. An autograph from the singer, and a selfie with her, both of which I would consider bounty from my first ever classical concert experience.
For a long time to come, I shall remember the excited grins that were plastered on our faces as my friend and I exited, richer in experience and elated beyond measure. As the magical evening came to an end, my ears still rang with the voice that seemed to continue singing. I would attend a lot more concerts in future, but the first one would always be special, as firsts would always be!