A Carnatic music aficionado new to Bengaluru may wonder how to go about attending Carnatic music concerts. In this city, Carnatic music festivals are oriented towards some commonly celebrated Hindu festivals. The concept of a season-specific festival, such as the ‘Margazhi festival’, in Chennai, which always happens from mid-December to January, is not there in Bangalore.
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Different organizations and groups across Bangalore have been organizing music concerts and festivals for a long time now. These past few years have witnessed the likes of well known artistes like Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Sudha Raghunathan, Sanjay Subramaniam, Vishaka Hari, Kadri Gopalnath, Gayathri & Ranjani, T M Krishna, Bombay Jayashree, et cetra performing at various Sabhas of Bangalore in true ‘Katcheri‘ style. Local and upcoming musicians are also provided opportunities in many of these concerts.
Here, we look at some well known festivals in the city, some recently concluded and some upcoming. If you are aware of other such events, please write to us. We will be happy to mention them for the benefit of all readers.
The Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira (Banashankari II Stage) has been responsible for over 1000 concerts being held in Bangalore these past 5 decades. The Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira festival had an excellent collection of concerts from 7th February to 14th February. The venue was the Mangala Mantapa, NMKRV College, Jayanagar.
The Sri Ramakrishna Bhajana Mandali (SRBM) has been organizing concerts, especially during Mahashivarathri, at the Sri Odukkathur Mutt, Ulsoor (close to Ulsoor Lake) for years now. This organisation, says Sundar Mahalingam, who has been involved in it for many years now, was started way back in 1951, with the idea of having nama sankeertanam and bhajan, primarily, on Saturday evenings. "Other sabhas seemed to be celebrating other festivals, but no one was celebrating Shivaratri, so we decided that it would be our focus," he smiles. Today it is a two-week-long festival, encompassing music, dance, harikatha, as well as, the focus of the Mahashivaratri puja lasting all night.
"From that day to this, we have brought music to the listeners without charging them any money for it," says Hari Krishnan, who now organises the concerts with the help of a team of workers, all of whom do it on voluntary basis. "In those days, parking was not a problem!" laughs Mahalingam. Today, one can’t say the same thing! The SRBM Music Festival recently concluded. SRBM also has a regular series to celebrate Thyagaraja Aradhana, in January. "This is a good opportunity to encourage local artistes," says Ramesh.
Some sabhas, including the Indiranagar Sangeetha Sabha celebrate a music series as a tribute to Purandaradasa and Thyagaraja around the 3rd week of January. The BTM Cultural Academy also has an annual series at the Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind, JP Nagar 3rd Phase, as well as the Thyagaraja Aradhana series.
Malleswaram Sangeeth Sabha, which has been organising music concerts for 60 years now, has been celebrating its Diamond Jubilee all through the year, and the festivities culminated in a grand finale on 24th February at Chowdiah Memorial Hall.
The Bengaluru Habba, of course, is another celebration (postponed from December of last year) that has just concluded, and was held at various venues around Bangalore, with many music concerts as well as other cultural events.
The next festival on the calendar will occur around Sri Rama Navami. March end and April will witness concerts and lec-dems by stalwarts in the field of Carnatic music, courtesy Rama Seva Mandali, at the Fort High School, Chamarajpet for about 70 years now. Around the same time, Seshadripuram College would be hosting a music festival organized by the Seetarama Seva Mandali.
Another organisation which has been rendering regular service to music lovers is the Sree Guruvayur Bhajana Samaj (SGBS), and their annual music festival is during Gokulashtami, which occurs around August/September each year. Click here for SGBS website.
SGBS, too, organizes concerts by top artistes, free to the listening public. SGBS interestingly has several wings, including free vocational training and job placement for needy children of this city. "Fund-raising is a major part of our efforts!" says Ramesh, who is one of the Trustees of SGBS.
Mahalingam, who has passed on the baton of SRBM to Hari Krishnan agrees. "The proliferation of music sabhas may be good news for rasikas in Bangalore," he sighs, "but for organisers, it means that the same amount of funds are now distributed across several organisations, and we are feeling the pinch." As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds shrink and dry up in the heat of the economic recession, funding is a problem which all the sabhas face.
Sundar Mahalingam now concentrates on another music/cultural organisation called Hastiru. Hastiru has also been bringing an annual music festival to the city since 2002; these concerts take place in November every year.
The ‘official’ hub of Carnatic music in Bangalore, the venerable, 104-year-old Bangalore Gayana Samaja, has regular events such as the annual conference of members, musical demonstrations, lectures and concerts. Renowned musicians are honoured with the title Sangeeta Kalarathna during the annual conference. In addition to this, ‘Composer’s Day’ event is organised to pay respects to renowned composers of Carnatic music. The conference generally takes place in August.
This is only a sketchy compilation of the various organisations that conduct music festivals. I found many organizations do not list concert details online. I would request those who know about forthcoming Carnatic music concerts to write in and post the event, so that music lovers of Bangalore can, at the click of their mouse, see where they can attend concerts, at any time!