Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I am a leading authority on carnatic music. Having attended 7 concerts in my life and bribed Deccan Herald to quote me on all manner of carnatic things, I now feel that I have contributed sufficiently towards the cause of carnatic music appreciation. You follow? I have therefore decided to dedicate the remainder of my time to the philanthropic art of documenting rasika(audience) stereotypes at a karnatic kacheri:

The ragam-guesser-and-zoner-outer: Springs into action at the beginning of every new song, frantically trying to identify the ragam. Stagewhispers the names of the most exotic ragams s/he can think of ("Bhinna shadjamaa?" ), to impress everyone around. When a consensus on the ragam is reached, sinks back into a blissful stupor, uncaring of the elaborate alapana, kriti, neraval and swaram that lie ahead.

Notebook Narayananaswamy: Comes armed with a tiny dog-eared cross referenced notebook with songs and ragams. Furiously scribbles in it for the first 20 seconds of a song after consulting his neighbours about the ragam, taalam and composer. Is usually wrong, which is why he never shows his book to anyone.

The Perpetual Critic: A very angst ridden jaded being that has attended kacheris since 1947. Sighs in disgust when the artist attempts an avant-garde kriti or ragam. Gets up and leaves dramatically during a meera bhajan. Makes nasty remarks before and after a kacheri about the shallowness and lack of talent of the artist. Usually upholds one privileged artist as the pillar of carnatic music, just to stave off any allegations about him being a complete cynic.

The Music Academy Maami: Grandly decked in a gorgeous kanjeevaram with jet black dyed hair, diamond encrusted heirloom jewellery and bizarrely mismatched blue rubber chappals. Usually has a season pass for the expensive see-and-be-seen section of the sabha. Very well behaved and appreciative of the music, but secretly only interested in impressing people about the simple life she leads. Chicago le irundhu yen paiyyan, peran, peththi, yellaarum vandhirukkaa. Kozhandhaigal ellaam shaerndhu diet, giet nnu praanana vaanga aarambichudthugal. Naan safe-aa aalukku oru vaai morshaadhaamaa ooti vuttu vandhutain. (silvery laughter)

The Paradise Flycatcher: The old biddy in the front row, usually an invitee, who enthusiastically plucks imaginary insects out of the air in time to the music. Screams bhale, and sabhaash at random moments in an alapana, and throws the musician completely off sync by loudly clapping out an aadi taalam to a mishra chaapu krithi. The musicians, too polite to fling their silver chombus full of dubious liquid at the rasika’s head, usually screw their eyes tightly shut and sing louder.

The Bodhi Tree: The religious nut who sits cross-legged on a chair – an amazing feat by itself, and appears to be at a higher spiritual plane than anyone else in the audience. Sways precariously from side to side with eyes rolled up in head and causes mass decapitations by suddenly lifting arms heavenwards in a namaskaram whenever a mudra or a god’s name is mentioned.

Giggling Gayatri: Usually seen huddled in a corner with a bunch of cousins and friends, passing comments about everyone and sniggering throughout the concert. Neighbours who object to the noise are instantly made a part of the giggle club and soon a whole section of the audience is giggling uncontrollably.

Sing-along Subbalakshmi: Usually a maami who sings at dasara kolus with a lisp and an appalaathu maavu kural (a voice similar to that achieved by coating your throat with papad batter): "Tharatha thaama dhaana, bheda danda thathura.." Insistently sings along with every song in the kacheri to prove that she knows them all. Is also the most glared and hissed at phenomenon in a kacheri, apart from Giggling Gayatri and gang.

The small-fry musician: Highly fidgety, mind always racing ahead of the performer to the end of the song. Nauseatingly irritating to fellow rasikas with a non-stop commentary about other artists’ (including their own) renditions of the same song. Will abruptly ask rasikas to accompany them to the canteen for bonda in mid-song, and irritate them further by prolonging the canteen experience with anecdotes about their various performances.

The Carnatic wannabe: The sort that will do anything to belong to the crowd. First in line at Jesudas and Aruna Sayeeram concerts and usually in possession of a large collection of Unnikrishnan and Nityashree albums containing synth, tabla and veena interludes between stanzas. Highly embarrassing to more serious listeners and artists, especially with requests for a Tulsidas ragamalika before the main ghana ragam.

All other stereotypes, maami-types, comments and insights are most welcome.


nigel said...

some other types who may be spotted...

1. malleshwari from matunga: dumpy and wearing cottons from fashion street. has done six day course on carnatic music at sies. (south indian education society) has brought in northie friends claiming this is most essential rite of passage

2. press types who are there for the free bondas and to fill in their time sheets for the hindustan times

3. bandra/fazer town dings come to check what all this is about, maaaan

comment_raja said...

beta! haha. but why only negative sterotypes.

postive sterotypes:

chaddi dosts:
what about good old friends like me (who didnt know anything about anything), who would come to just provide support and encouragement to singer?

beaming family tree
nothing like sunshine happy proud faces of own family.


birds and bees
and all other natural attendees like that, that make it the complete experience that it should be.

Anonymous said...

1. Benevolent Bangaru - looks around everyone and beams once the singer sings a known song

2. Tala Stereophonics - the ones who keep putting tala with such a loud noise

3. Asalooru Ambis/ambujams - indian born foreign settled boys/girls hovering around popular concert programs (especially Aruna, Sudha, Unni etal) with mineral water in hands

Pri said...

bwahahahahaha! omg! i need to start going for these things. I can be the highly amused girl in the corner with plate full of bondas [especially if they're free]

Krish Ashok said...

Just one addition.

The Single Song Soap Maamis
Soap watching maamis who like just the one Abhang by Aruna Sayeeram and sit through the entire concert nervously just waiting for the singer to sing that particular song.

Poojitha said...

he he..reminded me of chennai's december carnatic fest...waah..misng chennai!!

Ganesh Jeyaraman said...

Oh my God.. was a great enumeration. As an avid concert goer for the past 12 years, found it hilarious.
One more addition:
Society maamis wit maamas:
High society maamis who dunno and will never know the ABCDs of carnatic music, who attend concerts just to be part of the intelligentsia and spend half the time adjusting their flawed overdone make up and chiffon sarees. You can observe that these ppl never miss the chance to visit the canteen just after the main alapana(when it's the poor violinist's turn) and moreso, during the tani..

Thoppai mama said...

There's a mama who is always dragged along by mami-who incidentally writes the reviews for a local rag.

Mama, after many years, has given up any pretense of being interested and can be seen nowadays immersed in a book even in the middle of something as divine and rare as a live Hamsadhwani duet by the venerable Rajam Iyer and Ramani.

Anonymous said...

Very hilarious, but very true. Recently i had to scold a tatappa sitting next to me in a concert because of his regular loud apaswara aalaps and wrong diction of the kritis.. Paapa the taata left midway ..

Ramdas Menon said...

Biker dude, your caricatures are divine. Rem acu tetigisti. Keep up the good work.

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