Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
From the publishers of THE HINDU on indiaserver.com
Music : December 03, 2000
The writer is a Carnatic musician based in Chennai.
The Internet. It is everywhere. Even Semmangudi the other day said he had an interview for a web site. Newspapers report some thing or the other on a website. Everyday there are huge advertisements on some dot com or the other. WWW - World Wide Web is the buzz word. The new mantra for everyone. And where does that leave the Todis, the Kalyanis, the Kambojhis?
Enter Sangeetham.com. Enter Carnaticmusic.com. Enter Kutcherybuzz.com. Enter Carnatica.com. The list is endless and keeps growing. Imagine a company like Satyam Infoway. The first portal they set up or inaugurated officially was Carnaticmusic.com. A niche area like carnatic music gets such preferential treatment from a hi-tech company.
Even in the early days when Internet was just being mentioned in university circles by techies, a few of them had already put up a carnatic music Primer, a Percussion Primer with descriptions of the tala system. Rec.Music.Indian.classical was one of the earliest newsgroups that appeared on the usenet service. Still a popular forum for discussion and posting of events, it was populated by Indian students who passionately argued about Semmangudi, GNB, Balamurali and Lalgudi. A few of these persons even set up personal home pages on carnatic music. These are still the most accessed sites on the net inspite of the presence of so many portals. But today the net is expanding rapidly. Try searching for carnatic music on a leading search engine. You may immediately get a response of about 15000 matches. Artistes need not post their bio data anymore. It can be pulled off the net. Just e-mail the URL. Music sabhas have detailed programme announcements on the net. If you want to know when TNS is singing in your city next, just log in and find out. You can probably even reserve tickets for the Chennai music festival.
But what can the Internet do for carnatic music. One site gives space for bathroom singers. Another site offers to arrange any concert anywhere for any budget. Yet another site brings the canteen atmosphere to your monitor. But seriously the Internet today is a veritable storehouse of information. No more the ardous trek to a run down house in Sripuram, in search of a bookshop, the only place where you can get a copy of Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar's Kritimanimaalai! Only because you heard someone sing a rare varnam in Kambojhi the previous day on the radio. Just log into the net. Post a question on a discussion forum. And you'll get the details including possibly the script or notation! And wait! In probably a year or two the varnam itself will be available for download onto your machine.
The Academy lobby has now moved to the Internet. We can still recall some memorable fights we have had outside the canteen. Santanam's Karaharapriya was better than DKJ's. That's it. Immediately a tirade would be launched. Today any such mention in a discussion forum immediately draws flak from all directions. Every surfer today can become the Subbudu. He can post reviews on anyone from Konerirajapuram Vaitha to J. Vaitha. It is free space. You do not have to say who you are. Just log in as Syama Sastri and blast the latest HMV release to pieces.
The net may offer a bonanza for music students. Cyber gurukuls are sprouting. Learning online is a new trend. You can soon download the song of your choice, in the paatantaram of your choice and even sing along like the old music lessons on radio or the current karaoke method. With broadband access music classes will take place live over the net in a few years. Already databases of ragas, songs and lyrics have started appearing. The entire body of printed literature on Carnatic music is in the process of being digitised.
The net has brought carnatic music lovers the world over together. They can listen to music, talk music, buy music, learn music, and interact with musicians. In essence they can "virtually" do online almost everything they were doing online. Spaces are crumbling. Communities are forming. Fan clubs are registering online. Musicians are moving online. A concert in Chennai can be heard live in California or even New Mexico.
But all this cannot replace the charm of live concerts before an audience. The Pandal kutcheri, the Kovil kutcheri, the Kalyana kutcheri with the accompanying noise and cacophony. The Chennai music season. The intrinsic charm of these events. The atmosphere of music, the smell of begada. All this can never be reproduced digitally! So while the net adds value to the system and the system benefits and grows, let carnatic music evolve and flourish for centuries!
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