Margazhi Festival – It’s Raining Art

As December rolls in, Chennai city starts humming a tune of its own! Preparations that began months before will bear fruit with the curtains rising on the Margazhi Festival in mid-December. Chennai has always embraced art forms and artists with open arms. This year, the city has been in the spotlight of international recognition with the prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities tag, making the celebrations all the more sweet.

For decades, the city has been consistently hosting the annual cultural festival across 50 venues during the auspicious Tamil month of Margazhi. The two month long festival spread over December and January is a coveted platform for music and dance performers to showcase their talent. What started out with Carnatic music and Bharathanatyama concerts now includes other dance forms, drama and light music performances.This is a time when there is an influx of art connoisseurs into the city from all over the world. The spirit of the festival is so strong that event the devastating 2015 Chennai floods could not dampen it. That year, the festival was postponed by a few weeks, but was organized without any glitches nonetheless.

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The Music Season had its beginnings in 1927, when the Indian National Congress organized the All India Music Conference in Madras. The year after, this initiative was carried forward by the Madras Music Academy with the aim of fostering an interest in South Indian culture and art.During the British Raj over India, music and dance were not just symbols of the country’s ethos but were political weapons that brought people together against imperialistic trends. The Music Festival was arguably an indirect method for Madras to protest against the elite Christmas and New Year fêtes of the British.

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Soon other venues or sabhas as they are called began hosting concerts across the city. It can be said that the music festival as we know it today started in 1933 with more than one sabha participating in the festivities, the other one being the Indian Fine Arts Society. As years passed, the number of venues steadily increased and so did the attention garnered by the city’s artistic landscape. According to the Reckoner for Chennai Music Season, a 280-page booklet designed each year by S Kannan, over 50 organisations today conduct more than 2,000 events together during the season. This year, the magic of the season has come out into the open with metro stations and bustling malls serving as impromptu stages.

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The elite Music Academy inaugurated this year’s festival under the auspices of music director Isaignani Ilayaraja. An icon in Chennai’s music realm for over decades, the maestro’s association with the festival heralds a change and deviation from years of tradition and is one that has been welcomed by many.

More information on the concert schedule is available on this community driven link..