In the days of Twitter and TikTok, any information that takes longer than a few minutes to convey is probably not going to reach most people. Even though there will be an audience for long form content, increasingly, there is a really clear demarcation between people consuming long form content and the people that need a quick bite. It has been interesting to watch traditional Carnatic music and musicians evolve to meet this niche.
In the past, there have been several attempts to simplify and present Carnatic music via Youtube. Prince Ramaverma’s pioneering efforts to post all his concerts and workshops on YouTube, Jayanthi Kumaresh’s Cuppa Carnatic, Ranjani and Gayathri’s RaGa Candid are all great examples.
For me though, Sanjay Subrahmanyan has to be the shining star when it comes to adapting his music to suit these different niches. This past year Sanjay and team launched Short Notes, On that Note and Sanjay Sabha all catering to different types of audiences.
While Short Notes is a fun sneak peak into how traditional Carnatic music has made its way to Tamil film music primarily focused on Ilayaraja’s compositions, On that Note, has Sanjay narrating anecdotes from his own life that different ragas bring up for him. In both these formats, the way Sanjay brings out the essence of the raga in just a few short minutes is outstanding. Simplifying any art form is an arduous task, but capturing the nuances of a raga is a whole new level of skill and complexity based on what little I know about Carnatic music.
Sanjay Sabha caters to a more long form audience — a way for home-bound (thank you Pandemic) music lovers to be patrons for the art form they love and enjoy. Sanjay and team perform just like they would in an actual katcheri. This is a great way for musicians to monetize their content especially in a year of cancelled live concerts and international tours.
Probably the most underrated quality to Sanjay’s videos is how much effort has gone into getting the “look” right for each of these formats. Short Notes has Sanjay in a close up dressed in his now typical crisp white shirt. On That Note has Sanjay sitting in a nice nook colorfully dressed.
His joke on when the second season of On That Note was going to make a comeback was such a self-aware, self-ridicule, it brought a smile to my face. ("We will be back with On that Note once my wardrobe for the next season is finalized!")
I hope this is the just beginning of many such path-breaking efforts by our very own Carnatic musicians to do what Pandit Ravishankar did to Hindustani music. May be a podcast from Sanjay? A girl can hope!