The people of Chennai associate the Tamil month of ‘Margazhi’ (December-January) with the yearly Carnatic music festival. Every year around this time, sabhas across the city are filled to capacity with connoisseurs of music who appreciate every melody dished out by the exponents of Carnatic music. Since 2018, folk music festivals, too, organised during the month have also been gaining popularity. COVID-19, however, has brought things to a standstill this year.
As a way out, the organisers of Margazhi music festival have decided to take the online route now. Music lovers from abroad and in India, who are unable to reach Chennai this time, can enjoy the show from the comforts of their homes.
While the ‘sabha’ experience may be missing from the Margazhi Carnatic festival this year, those interested in folk music can enjoy it live in Chennai. An eight-day folk music festival will start on December 24 (Thursday). The event organised by Neelam Cultural Centre will offer a rich variety of events lined up for those who enjoy and appreciate different genre of music.
“In 2018, we conducted a three-day folk arts music festival under the banner Vaanam Arts Festival. This year, we have named it ‘Margazhiyil Makkal Isai’ with the inclusion of folk arts, singing and hip hop. Besides, ‘The Casteless Collective’ will also be performed,” said Arivu, a lyricist and rapper, who is also the coordinator of the festival.
Last year, the event was held in an open air auditorium at St Ebbas Girls Higher Secondary School in Mylapore. This time, the events are to take place inside sabhas such as Vani Mahal in T Nagar, Mylapore Arts in Mylapore, and Raja Annamalai Mandram in Broadway. The ticket price is fixed at ₹100 and the events will start at 5 pm every day during the eight days.
The ‘Margazhiyil Makkal Isai’ events from December 24-26 will be held at Vani Mahal, while the events of December 27 and 28 will be organised at Mylapore Arts. The shows of the last three days of the festival will take place at Raja Annamalai Mandram.
Highlights of the folk art music festival
The festival has two highlights this time: A show by Dalit Subbaiah and another one with Oppari songs from north Tamil Nadu.
Dalit Subbaiah, who hails from Madurai, has a band named ‘Viduthalai Kural’, which has been performing for the last 22 years, reciting songs dedicated to the ideology of Dr B R Ambedkar.
“This time the songs will express my opposition to communal politics,” Subbaiah said.
‘Margazhi’ is an auspicious month, but ‘Oppari’ songs (sung at the time of funeral) are an integral part of the celebrations.
“Many people think Oppari songs are not auspicious, but we need to understand that it is an art form. The songs may vary depending upon the region it originates from. This year, we are focusing on Oppari songs of the northern districts of Tamil Nadu, such as Tiruvannamalai and Vellore,” said Arivu.