The pandemic has altered everything about what we cherished in live concerts. And with auditoriums and concert halls closed for an indefinite period of time, there’s no telling when things will get back to how it were. But, you can never keep musicians and music lovers away from each other.
Online music events and festivals have thus become a viable alternative to the auditorium concert. The tradition-bound Indian classical musicians are adapting and how!
Among these is the International Music Premier League (IMPL), which is possibly the biggest and most prestigious online music festival organised by Indian artistes in recent times.
This was an idea mooted by well-known Carnatic musician who had dazzled connoisseurs as a child prodigy, K N Shashikiran, Founder-Director, Carnatica, and curated and directed by him along with renowned violinist-composer Jyotsna Srikanth, Director, London International Arts Festival (LIAF).
Over a period of 16 days, IMPL, which lasted from late April to early May, saw over 200 senior artistes and 300 upcoming talents participate. More than 500 videos/performances were posted online. There were stimulating panel discussions too. As Jyotsna revealed: “It was a digital congregation of artistes with varied musical genres and styles ranging from Carnatic, Hindustani, Western, Chinese, Indonesian, European, Arab, Latin, Balinese, fusion, classical, jazz, folk and popular music.”
Among the participating musicians were Sriram Parasuram, Aruna Sairam, Vishwa Mohan Bhat, Ronu Majumdar, Nityashree Mahadevan, K N Shashikiran, Jyotsna Srikanth, Manasi Prasad, Radha Bhaskar, Praveen Godkhindi, Manganiyar-fame Mansoor Khan, Nisha Rajagopalan, Patri Satish Kumar, Suma Sudhindra and others.
Generating new ideas
As widely respected musician and art curator, Dr Radha Bhaskar, who moderated the panel discussion titled ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Music: Present and Future’, said: “This crisis has been a matter of great concern as everyone is worried about the future with all live programmes having been cancelled. Having expert panelists discuss the issue brought in some positivity and suggestions on how to tide over these tough times and move ahead. It also generated ideas on how digital media could be used effectively to connect with audiences worldwide in various ways.”
Some IMPL participants also made their art a vehicle of healing, given the gravity of the health crisis. For example, Manasi Prasad, well-known classical vocalist and Museum Director, Indian Music Experience museum, performed a composition specially for IMPL, which spoke of how Hanuman brought the Sanjeevani herb.
“We are all praying the Sanjeevani (vaccination) comes soon. This is a different format, but I believe classical musicians, perhaps because of their training in manodharma, or spontaneity, are extremely adaptable to different circumstances. It is good that more classical musicians are adapting to technology and this will only help grow the audience for classical music in the long run.”
Not a substitute
Of course, both the audience members and performers agree that online fests are good, though never a substitute for a live concert. The beauty and magic of a live concert with the physical presence of the artiste and audience in the auditorium is unique and cannot be replicated. Ask Jyotsna Srikanth who knows this all too well.
Jyotsna has performed as a solo artiste and accompanist at prestigious venues in India and abroad, besides being an accompanist to Indian and European legends in highly acclaimed events. As she puts it: “As an international performer, I know things have changed drastically for musicians across the entire world. Certainly, we are worried, but equally, we are hopeful and optimistic.”
Indeed, it is this hope that is sustaining artistes, despite the hurdles. For example, in this new format, performers have to imagine their audience and the thrill and satisfaction of seeing their response is not there. Performers also miss challenging interactions with co-artistes. Older artistes have to learn how to handle new media like Facebook, Zoom, Instagram, etc.
Perfect acoustics are hard to achieve. Finally, obtaining sponsorship is either impossible or extremely limited as sponsors are cash-strapped. However, as the participants said, such a festival keeps the art alive, uplifts the morale of the performers who otherwise have no other platform and helps the artistes reach out, at least remotely, to the audience. After all, something is better than nothing.
The IMPL registered 25 lakh views worldwide, thus proving how wide reach is possible. As some artistes said, this is the new normal and hence this is one way of getting accustomed to the future world order.