ANINDITA ACHARYA, Kolkata: The coronavirus pandemic has cast clouds of uncertainty over the music scenario not across the world. All the major music concerts have been cancelled due to the COVID-19. Thousands of musicians in India are staring at an uncertain future given the lack of physical concerts. Of course, there are many musicians who have found an alternative on the virtual platform, but how can every musician rely on online. Can physical music events ever replace online music festivals?
Padma Shri recipient and renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Pt Ulhas Kashalkar is not a firm believer of the virtual medium. He would be performing at Swara Samrat Festival 20-21, an event which for the last eight years is being organised in Kolkata. However, due to pandemic, Kolkata-based sarod player Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar is taking the festival to the digital platform. “I do not like the concepts of virtual concerts. There’s a different kind of pleasure when we perform in a live concert where you can feel the musical instrument beside you. You can gauge the reaction of the audience. Performing on a virtual concert is like recording in a studio and I don’t get much enthused,” he said.
For Padma Bhushan violin virtuoso Dr N Rajam, it doesn’t matter whether the concert is virtual or physical. To her, an artiste should always be happy with the performance.
“For me, it doesn’t matter if the concert is virtual or physical… personally I feel that an artiste should be happy with the performance. Audience or no audience, I play for myself,” Dr N Rajam said.
Swara Samrat Festival 20-21 will see performances of Indian classical music and dance where 100 top legendary classical masters will connect digitally from Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru and perform. From Kaushiki Chakraborty, Pt Bickram Ghosh, Pt Kushal Das (in Kolkata), Pt Ulhas Kashalkar (in Pune), N Rajam (in Mumbai) to Mysore Manjunath and Mysore Nagaraj, the festival will feature 36 stellar performances.
India’s leading Hindustani vocalists Ashwini Bhide Deshpande said Swara Samrat Festival 20-21 is the only virtual concert that she is part of in the last seven months. “Initially I thought that during the pandemic, may be for a year, I would concentrate on my riyaaz. In that way, I would be able to offer my art better to the world. But then, in the pandemic situation, some healing is required for the soul in the form of good music,” she said.
Interestingly, Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar and team have one more purpose of organizing Swara Samrat Festival 20-21, which continues till February 28, 2021. A portion of the fund raised through the festival would support the economically weak Indian artistes affected due to the global pandemic.
“We don’t know when the pandemic situation will normalize and by when the physical concerts will start. In such a situation, we thought we should come together as a fraternity and support each other,” said Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar, who organizes this festival in memory of his guru Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
Tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh, however, said that the move from physical concert into digital platform means the festival is no longer limited to Kolkata.
“It is the festival in which every artiste across the country wishes to be featured. It is extremely important to organize music and dance festivals especially in these times because positivity and optimism is scarce. So, people need art to revive them. It is also important for young students of music and dance to remain motivated…to keep learning,” said Bickram Ghosh.