Eco-friendly Margazhi beckons music lovers in Chennai

Plastic waste
Almost a year after a ban on single-use plastic was imposed in Tamil Nadu, an initiative to put an end to plastic use during the music festival has begun | Representative Photo: iStock

Did you know that a Margazhi music season or the famed December Music Festival, held in Chennai every year from November till January, produces over 30,000 plastic bottles as trash? And that trash can fill up almost two rooms?

Almost a year after a ban on single-use plastic was imposed in Tamil Nadu, an initiative to put an end to plastic use during the music festival has begun.

Also read | Music festivals in India are slowly turning green

The initiative, ‘Masilla Margazhi 2.0’ (pure Margazhi) by the Namma Ooru Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to environmental matters, has reached out to the stakeholders of the festival — music audiences, artistes, venues and caterers — in this regard.

P Natarajan, founder of the foundation, says the second edition of the campaign was launched after a good response to the first edition last year, with a group of volunteers working closely with the stakeholders.

“This year, we wanted to intensify the campaign and have been getting more artistes on board with video messages, and venues signing up to comply with the request of eliminating the use of single-use plastic,” Natarajan says.

At least 3,000 concerts are organised during the Margazhi season every year, and with 10 bottles used totally by artistes during each concert, an average of 30,000 bottles are generated as waste every season.

Viji Ganesh, core member of the campaign team, says last year the campaign began with singer Nisha Rajagopalan playing a key role in influencing the younger artistes to forego the use of plastic bottles. With Nisha playing a big role in the current season as well, senior artistes like singers Nithyasree Mahadevan, Bombay Jayashree and Ghatam Karthick, and religious texts expert Dushyant Sridhar are also endorsing it, he says.

eco-friendly cutlery
The campaign also aims at making caterers stop use of single-use plastic at least by a small fraction | Representative Photo

Nisha says, “It is commendable that my peers came forward to spread the word and willingly participate in it. Even today at my concert, I saw a mridangam artiste bringing his own bottle. That makes a difference. In a few more days, more artistes will join the campaign and I think it should reach far and wide, with the participation of more audiences and venues.”

Venues like Narada Gana Sabha, Parampara and Arkay Convention Centre have already signed up for the campaign while artistes have been putting up videos on social media with a message to switch to an environment-friendly music season.

Also read | More than just music: A Margazhi in Madras

K Harishankar, secretary of Narada Gana Sabha, one of the big venues and a signatory for the campaign, calls it a significant step. “The season, being a unique one with a huge footfall, is an ideal occasion to drive home the message of avoiding plastic. Artistes performing at the venue have been asked to carry their own water bottles during the shows,” he says.

The campaign also aims at making caterers stop use of single-use plastic at least by a small fraction.

“The plastic cups distributed for desserts and snacks are a convenient option and their biodegradable alternative are areca nut bowls and plates. But, when the biodegradable cups gets mixed with the rest of the waste, it reaches the landfills rather than being composted,” adds Viji.

The foundation is also trying to promote the use of a cutlery bank that provide stainless steel cutlery. They hope if some of these changes are internalised by the various stakeholders, it can bring about a transformation.