Bengaluru, Feb 12 (PTI) One of the oldest Indian classical music festivals being held in Chamarajapet of Bengaluru, Ramanavami Global Music Festival, started way back in 1939, came about because the organiser saved Rs 4 from the money that he collected from his neighbours to celebrate Holi.
"So, my grandfather S V Narayanaswamy Rao decided to use the money to organise a music concert to celebrate Ramanavami that followed the Holi festival. Since then, every year we have been organising music concerts. Even during Covid, we had online concerts," said Abhijit Varadaraj, organiser of the Sree Ramaseva Mandali’s 86th Ramanavami Global Music Festival, to be held between April 9 and May 10.
The festival went on to become an iconic event of Karnataka, patronised by the then Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, and was later inaugurated by the likes of the last Governor-General of India, C Rajagopalachari and the first Vice-President of independent India Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, said S N Varadaraj, general secretary and managing trustee of Sree Ramaseva Mandali.
Vardaraj has been co-running the festival with his son from 2000, after his father passed away.
Incidentally, the Ramanavami music festival is also where Carnatic music legend M S Subbulakshmi had performed the maximum number of concerts, added Abhijit.
According to him, his grandfather’s dream was to take Indian classical music to the masses. "Because, in his days, the concerts were held mostly in temples and were not accessible to many. That is why he organised the festival in an open ground," said Abhijit.
Rao also wanted the festival to be a platform for young musicians, added Varadaraj.
Celebrated Carnatic violinist Mysore Manjunathan, who started learning violin as an eight-year-old boy, still remembers the first time he performed at the Ramanavami festival.
"I was only 10 years old then. I kept going back to perform there, and the festival has in many ways shaped me as a musician. So, I will always hold it special," said Manjunathan, who will be performing this year too.
"For many upcoming musicians it’s their dream to perform here. Many of my musician friends really look forward to performing here," added the violinist.
Ramkumar Mohan, who with his brother Srikrishna Mohan perform as Trichur brothers, said the crowd that the festival draws amazes him every time.
"We have performed there eight times at least, as far as I could remember. I feel the crowd in Bengaluru is very cosmopolitan and it is a delight to sing there," said the musician who is also a qualified chartered accountant.
He said compared with Chennai, which is famous for its Marghazi festival, the Bengaluru crowd is considerably young.
"So, the energy is very different. Also, unlike in Chennai, where you have 2,000 plus concerts happening at different venues, making it very hectic for rasikas (connoisseurs) — you have to go to eight concerts a day on an average to make it to all — Ramanavami festival is a lot more relaxed.
"Perhaps the organisers kept the traffic situation in Bengaluru in mind while scheduling the event. But it also amazes me that so many people make it despite the infamous Bengaluru traffic," said Mohan, who lives in Chennai at present.
Manjunathan agreed that Bengaluru, home to a diverse group of audience, always draws a huge crowd for any kind of music. But he said Indian classical music as such has still a long way to go to be viewed as popular.
"In our country, it is still cricket, politics and Bollywood that remain most popular, no other art form is given the primary focal point. I will be happier if the glory of our classical music reaches out to the lay crowd. I feel that is why we need festivals like this — at the Ramanavami festival, there is a good mix of upcoming and established musicians playing every day for more than a month," added Manjunathan.
Abhijit said this year Padma Bhusan Aruna Sairam and Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej are among the "stars" invited to perform.
This year, S V Narayanaswamy Rao Global Award for Music, which felicitates living legends of Indian classical music, will be given to Carnatic violinists Lalgudi G J R Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, added Abhijit. PTI JR JR KH