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Bringing Classical Music Home: The Innovative Approach of ‘Namba Aathu Katcheri’

As social media continues to be a vital platform for young artistes to connect with global audiences, the magic and allure of live performances remain irreplaceable. Artistes worldwide are constantly experimenting with new formats and in-person presentations to captivate their audience. One groundbreaking initiative that blends tradition with modern technology is ‘Namba Aathu Katcheri’ (NAK), a unique project by a group of young artistes that combines chamber concerts with digital streaming.

Adithya Raja, an ardent Carnatic music enthusiast, conceptualized this initiative. The core team includes vocalist Swarathmika Srikanth, violinist Shreelakshmi Bhat, and mridangist Vamsidhara Anand. This creative venture aims to bring live Carnatic music performances into the homes of listeners, creating an interactive and intimate setting, and simultaneously live streaming the events for a broader reach.

The primary objective of the NAK team is to engage rasikas (devotees of Carnatic music) of all age groups by hosting performances that feature both budding and established artistes. The inaugural episode saw a group of artistes performing Tyagaraja’s revered Pancharatna kritis at Swarathmika’s residence. The ambiance was mesmerizing—a well-lit living room in an apartment in Nanganallur with rasikas seated comfortably on the floor, surrounded by microphones and cameras set for the live stream. Vocalists Dhruv and Dhatre, along with mridangist Anirudh Raj and violinist Gayathri Vibhavari, delivered an enchanting performance.

Dhruv initiated the concert by picking a kriti from a bowl of slips and started singing. This approach introduces an element of surprise and excitement, attracting younger listeners and young artistes alike. “While we adhere to the traditional format of the Carnatic kutcheri, our new approaches, like incorporating gamification, have proven to be a hit among the millennials,” states the NAK team.

In the past six months, the NAK team has organized 11 thematic concerts on alternating Sundays. These concerts have featured intriguing themes like ‘Real-time Pallavis’ which focused exclusively on pallavis, ‘The Duality’ exploring two aspects of a composition, ‘Welcoming Varali’ showcasing seven different Varali ragas, and ‘The Unsung Abhangs’.

Recognizing the importance of instrumentalists, the NAK team ensures they too are in the spotlight. The initiative has arranged solo performances like ‘Strings and Swarams’, a mandolin concert featuring chittaswaras, ‘Exploring Tadhinginathom’, where mridangists presented panchanadai, and ‘+4 to -4’, a collaborative performance between a flautist and a mridangist.

One particularly innovative concert was ‘The Wheel of Ragas,’ where Shreelakshmi, accompanied by mridangist Sannath Parameswaran, played ragas starting with letters selected randomly from a spin-off wheel displayed on a screen. Shreelakshmi recounts, “It was a unique experience.

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. I played most of the ragas impromptu.”

What makes NAK especially enjoyable for artistes is the informal performance environment. Unlike traditional kutcheris, artistes have the liberty to choose themes, co-performers, and their repertoire, and can perform in casual attire. Says Charulatha Chandrasekar, a vainika (veena player) who led the ‘Solo Duo’ instrumental kutcheri: “We experimented with ragam-tanam-pallavi in Vanaspati raga, featuring mridangists Vamsidhara and GN Bhuvan for the tanam, a rare experience in conventional kutcheris.”

NAK’s embrace of online media has been another pivotal aspect of its success. They create engaging promos showcasing practice sessions, content discussions, and digital presentations of pillars on screen during live-streamed kutcheris. They also produce short videos capturing unique performances. Vamsidhara explains, “The promo shoots are the most fun-filled as they are naturally shot, without scripting. We’ve received enthusiastic responses from unknown rasikas asking for more promos and Spotlight videos.”

According to Adithya, the initiative has garnered attention from senior artistes like mridangists Sumesh Narayanan and Delhi Sairam, and vocalist Bharath Sundar, who have expressed interest in participating in NAK kutcheris. “This is very encouraging,” he adds.

Initially, performances were hosted at the artistes’ homes, but the initiative has now expanded to include concerts at the homes of rasikas. The first such event was conducted in Valasarawakkam. “Those interested in hosting a kutcheri can reach out to us through our social media handles,” says Adithya.

NAK also aims to broaden its scope by focusing on music education. They plan to invite experts to share their insights on various aspects of Carnatic music. The first interactive workshop, ‘Richness in Alapanas and Swaram,’ will be conducted by vainika Ramana Balachandran.

With a wide array of exciting projects in the pipeline, NAK strives to bridge the gap between classical music and music lovers, ensuring that this timeless art form continues to thrive in the digital age.