Some days back, there was a kathakali performance at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan in celebration of the Onam festival.
Tired of the same-old same-old "Alaipayudhe", "Krishna Nee Begane Baro", etc., of the Bharatha Natyam circuit (though recently a US NRI boy changed that -- not necessarily for the better -- by including "Madu Meikkum Kanne" in his Chennai arangetram; aaaarrrrgh! Is there no depravity to which people will not sink?
), I decided to attend the kathakali peformance.
The show was nothing short of brilliant. The story presented was "Kuchelavritam" where a poverty-stricken Kuchela visits his childhood playmate Krishna who is now King of Dwaraka.
The story was acted out brilliantly. The music went beyond anything you would normally hear in Chennai. With just a maddalam and chenda, played most of the time very softly, providing percussion support and with no koing-koing (that is musicians' parlance for violin) interfering with the music, one could just bask in the glorious vocal rendition.
There was nothing light
classical about the music. The longest padam started out in Sankarabharanam, moved thru Abheri, Sri, Atana, Mohanam, etc., seamlessly and back to Sankarabharanam.
At the end of the program, I felt bad that I had not taken a video camera to record the program. There was an official video recorder but the likelihood of getting one's hand on the recording is zilch. Just an audio recorder so that I could listen to the music again would have been good enough.
This program proved that 90% of sabha music (that is, commercial music) in Chennai is just plain trash, aimed at the uninformed and promoted by organizers who are chasing crowds so that they can please their sponsors.
Somewhere someone lamented that Kerala musicians don't know the art of self-promotion. Thank God they don't; because you get good music from them.
For those of you interested, there is a review of the program in "The Hindu" today.