Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Don't we need gaana concerts in the music festival?

If one were to define music in the simplest of terms, it is merely a well-arranged interplay of sound and silence. 

To an ordinary music lover such as this reporter, any sound that is soothing to the ear is great music and needs to be celebrated. Going by that yardstick, the gaana songs that originate in the ghettoes and poorer neighbourhoods of Chennai, and were popularised by Tamil cinema, are just as good as any other genre of music.

 Come December, the city comes alive with the annual month-long music festival, claimed to be one of the longest in the world. Even as the numerous sabhas and kutcheri halls reverberate with renditions of the centuries-old genre of music, Carnatic music remains a mystery to the vast majority of citizens and receives patronage of only a few who are able to appreciate the nuances of this form of music.

 In comparison, the gaana songs are easily accessible to the regular music aficionado despite the crudeness of the  rendition and the local Tamil that could be argued is its USP.

 While the word ‘gaana’ simply means 'song' in Hindi, none of the gaana singers of Chennai seem to really know how it came all the way down south. Despite being sung at funerals and other social occasions in the poorer neighbourhoods for decades, gaana songs came to a mainstream audience only after music director Deva, popularly known as the father of the gaana genre, composed them for Tamil cinema.

 Over the years, several gaana singers emerged in the city whose music CDs are extremely popular at wedding receptions and other public events.

  “But, we have seen the gaana song emerge as a major form of music entertainment and is now much sought after by several film makers to enthuse B and C class audiences,” says music director Siddharth Vipin, well known for the gaana hits in the recent flick Idarkuthane Aasapattai Balakumara. “It is the favourite music of the poor in Chennai, much like jazz music is to the oppressed blacks in the United States,” he says.

 Music industry experts in the city point out that these songs are no longer restricted to B and C class audiences as is claimed. “These days, we see that many of gaana songs receive appreciation from all sections of society and many shed their inhibitions and rush to the dance floors even in posh nightclubs when it is played as a teaser in between rock or salsa music,” says a city-based DJ.

For a music genre that is gaining such popularity, the gaana songs still do not find a place in the December music festival. When this reporter asked one of the top gaana singers in the city about his genre also getting recogntion at the music festival, he says, “I do not even want to comment on it. We are just ordinary people trying to make a living." It is all about ‘Kaasu, Panam, Duttu, Money Money’.

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