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Does Chennai strike the right chord? city pulse

Meera Srinivasan and S. Aishwarya

Artists discuss whether the city is equipped well to train and develop young musicians with lot of dreams


“Chennai is the hub of Carnatic music and that makes it a great place for any musician”


Photos: Special Arrangement and file photo.

IN HARMONY: Aspiring musicians should be prepared to work very hard, say composers. Music directors, Vijay Antony and (right) G. V. Prakash, at work in Chennai. —


CHENNAI: The city now has the distinction of producing an Oscar winner. A. R. Rahman winning the coveted award is bound to inspire or encourage several other aspirants to dream bigger than they did so long. Does Chennai have the right ambience for such young musicians?

It was in his attempt to address this question that Rahman founded the K.M. Music Conservatory. He has also often highlighted the need for a symphony hall-like performance space in the city that is world class.

Good training institutes, affordable performing spaces and studios, and opportunities to perform are also key factors, say music directors. And in these aspects, Chennai is the best place to be, according to Cine Musicians’ Union chairperson, music director S. A. Rajkumar.

“Chennai is the hub of Carnatic music and that makes it a great place for any musician, irrespective of the genre. There are excellent centres for western classical music. The Trinity College of music, London, has a centre here. We also have some of the best studios,” he says.

Music director Vijay Antony feels aspiring musicians can make it big if they work really hard. “When someone believes he can do it and works hard, there is no stopping him.”

Urging youngsters to push the envelope and explore new avenues, he says: “Today, with a good PC and some relevant software, youngsters can set up a mini studio for less than Rs.50,000. They can gradually upgrade their facility,” he adds.

Percussionist Sivamani feels the city is equipped to nurture young talent. “I am considering setting up a gurukul in the city. It will be a place where anyone can come and learn our art forms, including folk arts.” He has also approached the State government on this matter.

‘Opportunities scarce’

However, young performers in the city ask if there are enough forums to showcase talent.

Krishnakumar, a member of ‘Panatella’, a popular band in the college circuit, says: “Apart from your regular inter-collegiate fests and one or two centres that invite bands, there are hardly any other avenues here. Some pubs have bands playing, but people don’t really come there to listen to music.”

Places such as Delhi, Bangalore and Puducherry have exclusive festivals that provide young musicians and not-so-popular bands a platform. “While organisations in the Carnatic music realm offer slots for junior artists, there aren’t as many chances available for youngsters pursuing other genres,” he adds.

Reality shows

This is where reality shows seek to score. While the channels are racing with each other to hike their TRP ratings, participants, undoubtedly, are the winners.

For those who were scouting for a chance in the film industry, these shows aim to serve as an immediate passport. For Ajesh Ashok, the chance in Star Vijay’s Super Singer-2 was too costly to miss. “We are put to a lot of training throughout the contest. So far each round has been a great experience,” says Ajesh, one among the seven contestants who entered the last few rounds.

“Since many had a Carnatic background, we had to conduct a string of rounds to test their versatility. Music directors say many voices are real finding,” said Pradeep Milroy Peter, programming head of the show.

Zee Tamil, which has roped in winners of many talent hunt shows for its ‘Sangeetha Mahayudham’, aims at exposing the participants to the who’s-who of the industry. “Every participant gets one-on-one training with the judge. There are a couple of instances where music directors have hinted at chances,” said Vijaysarathy, associate vice-president of the show’

Bangalore-based Ajay Baradwaj beckoned the attention of composers with his voice clarity when he took part in one such contest. “A couple of music directors said they would love to give him a chance when he grows up,” says Prakash, father of the 12-year-old. Meanwhile, few top-performers in the reality shows like Nikhil Mathew and Maya already have their names stamped on the album covers of movies and jingles.

However, music director Bharadwaj, who trains playback singers at his Bharadwaj School of Music, feels reality shows may not be the real talent hunt. “Funnily, people who require these voices are not often judging these events. They also seem more entertainment-oriented.”

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