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Concert Format – The Evolution


It all started as a way of expressing one’s devotion to the Lord..It poured out in the form of poetry set to a certain melody and beat. And they went around the village singing which brought them the grains for the day’s meal. Not a grain more, not a grain less.This was called Unchavritthi…Purandaradasar did it and Tyagaraja too followed the path. Souls of exceptional devotion, life led with the thought of only the Lord..Can we call it the first format of public performance? Purandaradasar was considered the Father with his Devarnamas as our beginners lessons. Because his compositions were mostly sung in such fashion, not much is documented.

And so it was it was mostly in temples and homes of these saints where people flocked to hear them.

Then from temples the performances moved to the Royal courts and festivals at the temples which gave the platform for performances of long duration…some times well into the night..the Nadaswaram performances were famous for such programmes..The four hour concerts of present day is somewhat based on such concert, where the Varnam and the Ragam Tanam Pallavi were of the same ragams.

Early twentieth century brought the concerts from temples and Royal courts to the Sabhas in the cities. Patronage shifted from Kings and Zamindars to the Intellectuals and now to the corporate sponsors!!!

ariyakudiIt was Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar who drafted and popularised the Katcheri format as it is performed today. A varnam as a tonal warm up, a krithi, kalpitham then introduces manodharmam in the form of a short alapana and neraval, and then Manodharmam takes centerstage with an elaborate raga exposition and kalpanaswaram..sometimes a RTP (Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi). The artist then gets to rest his vocal chords when tala vadyam comes into focus with their tani avarthanam. The tail end of a concert then comprises of Javalis, padams , bhajans and tillana…

When the Sabha culture started it was a prescribed format of a concert. And now, well in to that culture, boundaries have opened out to Jugalbandhis and fusion of various genre of music. The format has gone through a shift to explorative conversation between the Artist and the Art…

Today, as we listen to more concerts at venues close to us, there is a lot to enjoy and learn for the Rasikas!!

Article contributed by Ms.Kalpana Ramesh