Monday, April 11, 2005

ICMS 2005: ustad zakir hussain and pandit shiv kumar sharma [april 10, 2005]

The big bang to begin the year for the Indian Classical Music Society of Greater Atlanta. The venue: Glenn Memorial Auditorium at Emory. Everything I feared came to pass. The audience (who clearly were drawn by the name "zakir hussain" than by "shiv kumar sharma") was chock-full of people who had nary a clue about hindustani classical music. And I don't mean formal knowledge. I mean a basic awareness as a fairly regular listener (check out a regular low-profile ICMS concert event and you'll know the rasiks I'm talking about). Which meant a lot of waah-waah and clapping at the wrong moments. Performers rely on audience reactions to fuel their improvisational urges and creativity and I saw nothing positive propagating to the stage. Add to that, an ineffectual sound system that made the place feel like the Echo Lounge on a break. Consequently, I came away knowing what I already knew: these were two great performers who deserved all the praise showered on them for talking their vocations to new heights. Aside from that, I was neither impressed with the performance (I could get much better from a CD at home) nor with the set-up. The goals of ICMS were probably served well (getting their name out to more people, gathering funds to support future concerts), but I don't think they attracted too many musically keen listeners. Only subsequent concerts will either confirm or refute the success of this endeavour. Unfortunately for me, I'd rather have higher-quality performances by talented people with a much lower profile (almost everything that I've been privileged to experience thanks to ICMS has been thus). Call me a snob, call me a critic of the mainstream. Here's my spin as a consumer: I paid my $$s too, and I didn't get my money's worth.

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