“We also make money”

With reference to the article “the Sparkle is missing” (January 19) by G. Dwarakanath, T. M. Krishna, musician, writes:

The article, “The sparkle is missing” written by Mr. G. Dwarakanath, made interesting reading and covered various aspects of music and its values as it was 50 years ago and as it is today. I respect the opinion of the author on Carnatic music as it is being practised today and what is missing in it. Every rasika, connoisseur and critic is entitled to his/ her opinion on music.

The only part of the article that was unwarranted was the paragraph referring to the luxurious lifestyle of today’s musicians.

The paragraph is reproduced below: “It is generally agreed that the younger generation musicians somehow have learnt the art of marketing their talents and making money. They have no need to improve their knowledge. Their commercial success is too visible to remain unnoticed. They have reasonable large houses, and furniture, upholstery and other accessories which only the well- to-do can afford. Most of them have one or two telephone connections and have a secretarial set up. You can’t talk to them directly anymore. You have to fix an appointment through their secretaries.”

There are various issues that I would like to raise. First, to a listener, connoisseur or critic the only aspect of a musician’s life that is related to them is the music he or she produces on stage.

Every individual is entitled to an opinion on the music and is more than welcome to express it. What happens beyond the stage is personal and should remain so. How a musician leads his personal life and his lifestyle is for him to decide and concerns none. This is where the author has crossed his boundaries when referring to a musician’s lifestyle.

The author states that musicians have learnt to market their music very well and make money. What is wrong with that? I believe that musicians have always marketed their music and that is why they were so popular and remain so till date.

If Ariyakudi, Semmangudi or GNB did not perform in every village in south India how would they have become famous. Is this not marketing?

Marketing is not evil. Musicians are people who perform to an audience. If we cannot market the music to them then we have to remain at home.

Once you get on to the stage you have to make people understand your music and make them move with it. This is marketing. Why did Ariyakudi evolve a cutchery format? He realised that if we have to keep an audience spell bound for three hours we need to package our music differently. What is this but great marketing?

The popular musicians of all eras made money and there is nothing wrong with that. In our society there is this hypocritical attitude towards money. Money is not an evil and we need to accept that.

All of us work hard in the chosen field so that we earn ourselves a good standard of living. This is how it should be. If this is not true we should all be doing free service all our life.

Let me also say that most musicians of all periods have sung a number of concerts free or at a minimal fee. This is being done even by the younger musicians of today. There are concerts that musicians sing for certain causes and goodwill without demands on remuneration. This is something people need to remember before making accusations. Are we living the way our grandfather did? People used to go to their work place by bus but today their grandsons travel by Santros. This is something that comes with change of time and has to be accepted like all other changes in our life.

The charge that musicians are inaccessible is baseless. As a musician, I am very much in touch with most of my colleagues and I know for a fact that other musicians are all literally a telephone call away and very easily accessible.

Every musician spends time on music and working on different aspects of it. You cannot say that they do not work to improve their knowledge. Maybe their style or method of music is not acceptable to you but that is an opinion. This does not mean that no work is being put in. Finally at a time when our society is influenced by the West in all walks of life from economics to culture there are individuals who are making a good life for themselves depending on Carnatic music.

This has to be commended. Most of us are educated individuals and could have easily chosen any other lucrative profession but we have dedicated ourselves to Carnatic music. If this art form is giving us all the riches, as the author says, it has to be taken as growth for the art and artiste.

Originally written for The Hindu.