When will we learn to treat our musicians better?

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As we were listening to M.S. Subbalakshmi’s Venkatesha Suprabhatha, Ajji was ecstatic. She normally closes her eyes and listens to music, perhaps creating her own imagery to match the meaning of words, feelings and the raga.

Eshtu amoghavagide. It’s divinely. Every time she takes us to different levels of consciousness. No wonder she is a Bharatha Ratna,” she said.

Howdajji. She was the finest of all.”

“Ramu, music cleanses our souls. It can lift the mood of a multitude bringing unalloyed joy and unmatched serenity. But we hardly honour our artistes in our State.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’s only after a series of official bungling, we honoured Gangubai Hangal, that too in her advanced years.”

“That’s true, Ajji. Some of our politiciansge sangeethada gandhave illa.”

“Musicians, as in any profession need constant encouragement. Earlier, our Maharajas used to look after these artistes. Now since Government is giving awards, our politicians should make sure our artistes are not neglected.”

Nija Ajji…”

“Our R.K. Srikantan is 87 and still gives live concerts. He was decorated with the Sangeetha Kalanidhi title by the Madras Music Academy. Cleveland gave him the title of Sangeetha Rathnakara. Here, they don’t think he is good for even a Padma Shree when others, half his age, have been given the Padma Bhushan. Don’t get me wrong; I am not cribbing here.”

Howdu Ajji…”

“Another renowned singer who has been ignored is the vocalist R.K. Padmanabha. So also, V. Ramarathnam, the ex-principal of Mysore Music College, now 80+, who has trained hundreds of students who sing in Thyagaraja and Purandara Dasara aradhanas every year all over the world. There must be quite a few, like Yakshagana artistes, who have been ignored. What have our young Chief Minister and others before him been doing all these years? I guess, music, to our politicians, is akin to Konana munde kinnari barsidahage!”

“You are absolutely right, Ajji.”

Innondu vishaya. Mysore does not have anything in memory of one of the greatest violinists of the country—Mysore T. Chowdiah! Not a Chowdiah Bhavana, not even a road in his honour in Mysore. Naachiggedu. Is this what he deserves? A trust in the City is running between pillar and post to get a site from our Government to construct a building in his memory. …What a shame!”

“It’s a pity, Ajji.”

“Good artistes should get encouragement from Government and public alike. We too should take the blame for our gross misbehaviour at concerts. Last time when he was here, your brother Suri told me, in Germany they clap 5 to 10 minutes at the end of a concert…. In America, they give a standing ovation at the end, it seems.”

Ajji was on a roll.

“That’s grace in acknowledging the efforts of a group of artistes. Chinnakke meragu kottahaage. Here, even sitting in the front row, we chat continuously, start a serial discussion of our daily Ramayana and Mahabharatha on our mobile phones and run off to start our scooters even as the musician starts singing Pavamana… This is the way we treat our artistes. Ide namma samskara…”