The annual “Maargazhi Music and Dance festival” or “December Season” in Chennai (the former Madras), which overlaps between December and early January, is said to be one of the world’s largest cultural events. More than a thousand performances are given, with almost as many artists. For anyone who enjoys Indian classical music, this is indisputably the place to be.
The festival was founded in 1927 to spotlight Carnatic classical music (the classical music of South India) and classical Indian dance. Top artistes come to perform, and there is also a place for the best emerging talents. By far the main focus is on vocal music – some may be sorry to find so little instrumental music or new works there.
The concerts are organised by sabhas, organisations working to promote South India’s classical arts. Most run concert halls and award prizes. The best known and most prestigious is the Music Academy on Cathedral Road. Concerts are held all day long, from eight in the morning till late at night. In principle, daytime concerts are free and you only pay entry to the evening concerts.
Very sadly, when I was writing this article, U. Srinivas passed away unexpectedly on September 19, 2014. I pay tribute to this exceptional artist, a virtuoso mandolin maestro who inspired so many musicians worldwide.