Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chennai-Flavour of Madras

New Chennai with Madras flavour
S Prabhu

Known across the world as the Hub for 'Carnatic music and Kutcheris' and the heart of 'Filter kaapi', one is today experiencing a new Chennai represented by a youthful culture.

What one has witnessed in the last decade is not just a name change from Madras to Chennai but also a dramatic never before new young ‘Chennai’.

Known across the world as the Hub for ‘Carnatic music and Kutcheris’ and the heart of ‘Filter kaapi’, one is today experiencing a new Chennai represented by a youthful culture with the so-called modern outlook to life.

The BPO companies and the lifestyle coffee pubs seem to be grabbing a lot of the limelight of this ‘New Chennai’. They have brought with them previously unknown aspects of modern living to this city of Kutcheris -western music, hip hop and rock concerts and a new ‘the world can wait’ coffee drinking culture.

No more is it just the ‘Kaapi’ from the ‘Madisara Maami’ (the neighbourhood aunt in the nine yard saree) and the Kutcheris at the Sabhas.

No more is it just the Kutcheri maamis displaying their Kanjeevarams, while eating their favourite pongal at the Sabha canteens. The new Chennai girl in her jeans now sips Frappe, talks rock and shops at a great frequency at the various new multiplexes.

That brings us to the question - are the Kutcheris only for the older generation and not for the youth of today? This is a question that is being constantly raised by the traditionalists of Chennai.

In response, one of the oldest financial services companies in the country, Sundaram Finance, has in the last few years recreated a ‘Thiruvizha’(traditional festival) atmosphere through its annual four-day ‘Mylapore Festival’ (the oldest place in Madras) in the month of January.

This traditional festival of arts, music and dance has attracted well over 50,000 visitors, including from across the world.

As an extension of this festival, the company has initiated a Kutcheri programme that might well roll out one or two of the next big music artistes of this generation and possibly quell any worries about Carnatic music and traditional Kutcheris being lost out to the new age ‘Chennai’.

A first of its kind initiative to promote music among young children, the programme called ‘Sunday Kutcheri in the Park’, launched in February 2006, has kids, under 15 years, performing in an open air environment without mike and speakers, on the first Sunday of every month for an hour from 6.30 am.

This Kutcheri initiative is intended to be a launch pad for young music artistes and to give them the confidence of performing without inhibition.

This is a first of its kind Kutcheri for children in Chennai, that has come in for much appreciation from the music connoisseurs, music gurus and especially the parents whose kids now have the opportunity to perform in front of a big audience at a very young age, well before they are into their teens.

While a few voices can be heard about the death of traditional music and Kutcheris, especially among the youth of Chennai, the reality is that not only are the Kutcheris alive and kicking in this city, but it is also catching the fancy of the younger generation, not just in Chennai but elsewhere too.

Testimony to this came in recently when a 13-year-old Dubai-based child sent in an application from the Gulf to participate in this open air Park Kutcheri.

Madras, sorry Chennai, is changing. Into the future, you will find Chennai emerge as a city with a delightful mix of ‘Kutcheris and concerts’, ‘Kaapi and coffee pubs’ and ‘Thiruvizhas and Rock Shows’. A new Chennai, but retaining the ‘flavour of Madras.’


Ramya Rajagopal said...

A very refreshing write-up without the usual thrashing/flaunting the new generation. Nice read.

PRabhu S said...


:) Thanks for the comment