FAQs by non-kutcheri-goers/non-Carnatic-listeners

Recently, as someone typed a surprised smiley when I told him that a majority of the concerts here are ‘All are welcome’ ones, I remembered the numerous instances when my same reply was met with the same response from so many people and how Carnatic music still remains unfamiliar to many people. I also remembered the questions that Puranjoy had asked in this comment, to which I have still not replied.

As you might know, sometime during the initial semesters of my college was when I slowly started going for concerts. It was at that time that it struck me that I didn’t have any friends with whom I could talk about the concerts I went to. All through my college, my close circle of friends were all Chennaiites. Even if they didn’t go for concerts, most of them did listen to Carnatic music once in a while, though they couldn’t identify raagams or didn’t know about neraval etc. and were atleast familiar with the names of Carnatic musicians. Atleast, back then, no one asked me “Sanjay? Who?” when I told them that I was going for a Sanjay’s concert!

It was only when I started working that I got to interact with so many non-Chennaiites and Chennaiites totally unfamiliar with Carnatic music and kutcheris. The question of what I do during my free time invariably kept cropping up in almost all the conversations and with it started the series of questions that I have been patiently answering again and again ever since.

Here are some of the questions that I am asked and my answers to those. The next time someone asks me any of these questions, I am going to direct them to this post!

  • With whom do you go for concerts?

I generally go alone or with my sister or on rare instances, with my mom or dad.

  • Don’t you get bored during a concert if you go alone?

As clichéd as it may sound, can there be a better company than good music? 😉 I really don’t need company for listening to music.

  • In which areas in Chennai do all these concerts happen?

Majority of the concerts happen in the many auditoriums in and around Mylapore. A lot of concerts happen in T.Nagar too. Only a few concerts happen in other areas.

  • From where do you get to know about the concerts happening?

‘Cinema Arts Events’ section in the 4th page of ‘The Hindu’ everyday and the Friday supplement, ‘Friday Review’ still remain the best source till date even though so many other newspapers have now come. Other source is the ‘Concerts in Chennai’ page in Ram’s blog. T.M.Krishna’s website, Sanjay’s blog, Guitar Prasanna’s MySpace page and Sandeep Narayan’s MySpace page are the sources for their respective concert schedules.

  • What are the ticket prices?

During non-Season, most of the concerts are ‘All are Welcome’ ones, i.e., free. Season or otherwise, unless you want a ticket in the first few rows, a concert ticket isn’t going to cost you more than 50 or 100 bucks or at the most 200 bucks. Don’t be surprised if a ticket is priced less than 50 rupees also.

  • What is the duration of a concert?

Generally 2 to 2.5 or 3 hrs

  • December Season? What’s that? Why are you so excited about it?

December, especially, the latter half of the month, is when not less than a minimum of hundred concerts happen every day all over Chennai! There will be concerts happening from morning till night! A Carnatic music buff will go crazy trying to choose the concerts to go to!

  • What exactly do they perform in a concert?

I still remember the first time I was asked this question and how I initially couldn’t even think of what to answer since I was too surprised to hear a question like this!

A Carnatic music concert will have a main performer – a singer or an instrumentalist accompanied by a violinist (assuming, of course, that the main instrument itself is not a violin 😛 ) and a mridangam player and musicians playing other percussion instruments. Unlike a light music concert, a Carnatic music concert doesn’t involve just singing/playing songs. The musician’s creativity is what matters here. Along with rendition of songs, there are aspects like raaga alapana etc. which involve singing/playing non-pre-composed music for which the musician’s creativity is what is important.

  • What is a lec-dem?

Lec-dem is lecture demonstration where musicians talk about a chosen topic on Carnatic music, aided by performing relevant pieces of music.

  • What on earth makes the size of an mp3 of a Carnatic song as huge as, say 50 MB?? Are the songs so lengthy?

As I said earlier, Carnatic music isn’t about just singing songs alone. So even for a song, the duration of which won’t be more than 5 minutes, the creative parts performed for that piece can stretch it to an hour or even more.

Coming to Puranjoy’s comment, (these too are questions that I have been asked before)

“Just how good are these artists? How old? What are their backgrounds? Are they full-time artists, or do they hold some other day job?”

Reading these questions, I remember how a friend recently told me that she thought T.M.Krishna (TMK) was some old thaatha! LOL! (TMK is in his early thirties) Anyway, coming back to the questions, except for some of the leading musicians, most of them do hold some other job.

“Do you go to watch them perform, or do you watch them perform because they are doing Carnatic classical stuff?”

I definitely don’t go to watch them perform. I go only because they are performing Carnatic music. Whenever possible, I go for concerts of musicians I have not heard before (Who knows, I might find somebody whom I might become a fan of. 😉 ) or even whose music I didn’t like earlier, just to see if I like their performance now. Unless I found somebody’s performance really boring, I wouldn’t mind going to another concert of theirs again.

If  there are any more questions that you want me to answer, do ask 🙂

P.S.: As I was writing this post, I remembered T.M.Krishna’s article on Carnatic Music basics. Check it out if you are interested.

30 thoughts on “FAQs by non-kutcheri-goers/non-Carnatic-listeners

  1. Aparna

    You, of course, do know that you’re one of those FAQ-askers 😉 Forget about mastering it, did you even listen to any Carnatic song? 😛

  2. S. Krishnamoorthy

    Recently, Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, who himself is proficient in Carnatic Music, has advised the artistes to give a brief explanatory note on the song and the rega in which the song is proposed to be sung. I heard that disgusted with the mis-pronounciation of the names of raga and songs by the announcers of AIR and DD, TMK has chosen to announce them himself. While, there is hardly any mis-pronounciation by the singers themselves, some of the new rasikas have lingering doubts about the names of Ragas. Is it Dharmavathi or Dharmaavathi? like that.
    Why not the names of ragas and the songs be announced before the start of each song?

  3. sundar


    Thanks for posting this wonderful FAQ about attending concerts. Even for a chenniate like me (sadly not now) it is a surprise to know that most of the concerts are “All are Welcome” types. Now since I am away from Chennai this information is like a coconut given to a dog. It will not spare that to someone or use it.

  4. puranjoy

    Cool FAQ.
    Thanks for answering those questions. Though not interested yet, I am getting intrigued. One of these days I might even listen to one!! And oh boy, how is gmail going to handle the traffic surge to my blog from this post 🙂 Pity, they all will be disappointed.

  5. usha

    hi,aprna good one on carnatic music..i feel it can be made more interesting by telling the name of the raga and the tala before starting each song..that will give the audience ,who do not know much about the carnatic music to be interested..or give a song list to the listeners ..

  6. Sathej

    I, for one, have encountered this question – the most often – what is so great in singing Swarams and more so, Kanakku Swarams – you just fill in with the Swarams corresponding to the Ragam! I have often found myself short of words when explaining things like the challenge involved in singing a 4 Kalai Misra Jhumpa Pallavi and doing a Trikalam! Am nto able to convey the difficulty of the Layam sense adequately to people.


  7. Gradwolf

    That was quite comprehensive and much needed. I never took music lessons but slowly developed an interest in carnatic music. You should probably make this post a separate page on this space!

  8. Sathej

    @ swat,

    Yes, I remember that 🙂 Well, actually singers don’t add. Either we add it when referring to some senior artistes or at times artistes add it to names of other senior artistes when referring to them 🙂


  9. Aparna

    Thank you

    Thank you

    S. Krishnamoorthy,
    I would prefer the raaga/song to be announced at the end of the song or atleast at the end of alapana. I wouldn’t want to be robbed of the pleasure of identifying the raagam 🙂

    It’s surprising how so many of them don’t know about the price of kutcheri tickets

    Do listen! Btw, what genre of music do you generally listen to??

    😛 Didn’t it give you the motivation to resume blogging? 😉

    Usha aunty,
    I wouldn’t want a song list to be given in advance! The surprise factor of what’s going to be sung in a concert will be lost!

    That must indeed be difficult to answer!

    Welcome to my blog! 🙂 I will give a link to this post on the sidebar maybe

    s w a t,

  10. Neelesh

    aparna, i landed in madras on friday and was lucky enough to go a performance by Gayathri Venkataraghavan at the Amara Bharathi in Thiruvamiyur. It was an awesome concert, Shankarabharam, Sahana and Malayamarutham being the highlights. I will be here a couple of more days, do you happen to have a list (point me to a site ) or of know of any concerts in the city that I could go to till Thursday ?

  11. Neelesh

    Thanks Aparna. I missed it 🙁 due to last minute changes. We saw him last at LearnQuest near Boston a couple of months back. The concert was awesome. I liked his rendition of Janero (Misra Khamas), however my wife that he over did it just a little bit (compared to Unni’s)

    Thanks for your blog posts.

  12. Aparna

    Oh. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan concert was too good! Todi was the main but 🙁 So I went out during that alone since I didn’t feel like listening to todi..

  13. Mrs.N.Usha

    APARNA, u have done an excellant job.As per your words, briefing the name of the raaga n the name of the composer before singing gives some exposure on carnatic music to the common people.Thanks for your faqs and it’s answers

  14. Kalyaani

    Could u post the schedule for coencerts by E Gayathri and Sashank in Dec 2009 end or Jan 2010? I need to know about the availability od=f the tickets and sources of the tickets as well.
    Thanks in advance

  15. Aishwarya

    Hi Aparna,
    I haven’t been to kutcheris before but I really want to attend some this coming december. I am not sure about buying tickets for the kutcheris. Should I buy them from outlets or can I buy them online?

  16. Aparna

    Welcome to my blog! You can buy daily tickets on the day of the concert itself at the concert venue. There are some sabhas which allow advance booking. Some sabhas like Bharat Kalachar do have online booking. I haven’t tried online booking.


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