Press Reviews

THE HITAVADA

Exclusive to readers in NAGPUR
City-Line / Tuesday, September 7, 1999

'Talent has to be coupled with selling technique'

By Sarita Kaushik
That music and art are only altruistic, is a myth which has never been better shattered but in the past few years. The myth has received a shock by commercialism which has converted even the Indian classical music into big business.

Though commercialism has crept in a big way, I do not think it is not negative as it is made out to be, says Satish Vyas. Satish Vyas has many an introduction. As son of renowed musician Pandit C.R.Vyas, and as a performing santoor artist in his own right with programmes both home and abroad. But more so, he is also better known in music circles including those of our city's as the man who can pull in the green bucks for music programmes. He is a reputed organisor of none other than the Gunidas Sangeet Samaroh, a zealous manager of music programmes, helper of smaller music organisations in need and a friend of many artists in the country.

Vyas who has often helped the city music groups was here for the Pt.Shivkumar Sharma performance by Saptak (the programme partially his own doing again). The Hitavada decided to speak to him on the commercial aspect which is making classical musicians dance to its own tune these days.

Excerpts :

Would you throw some light on the commerce of music existing in the country at the moment ?
Satish : The music programmes, the attention being given to the artists has definitely increased in last 20 years or so. A deciding factor has been the cropping up of many organisors and the many commercial music festivals.

Earlier, there were very few music festivals of which again most were non-commercial. So artists mostly participated in them as a gesture of goodwill.
However, the music scene is very different in metros and in other places. In metros where there is a lot of musical activity, the changing face of the corporate world has been responsible. They have realised especially in case of consumer product corporates that classical Indian music is the most dignified of building up one's corporate image. It will often be seen that those specialising in industrial products do not undertake such exercises, the sponsorship is mainly from consumer products corporations. This has also led to the mushrooming of event management organisations. These set-ups mean business and they can take various forms like being simply in-house. These events managers are playing a major role in classical music also. It is usually big business. They deal with big names and they are playing a crucial role too.

Q : However this scene does not extend to the smaller cities where too there is a large audience of classical music and of course other arts ?
Satish : In the smaller cities, the scene is definitely different. On the whole, the music scene is at a little ebb at the moment. And especially in smaller cities, where there are no corporate sponsors, the problem gets aggravated. The audience is willing to pay only for big artists, big names and not willing to give a smaller artists or lessor known talent a chance. These organisations do not have the money to invite the senior artists and otherwise do not get audience. Money has become the watch-word. Music circles are losing confidence in small artists. At the same time, there is no certainity that only one artist will pull the audience. So conceptually, the idea of a individual performances is also going down. In smaller cities, the electronic media performs the job of providing big artists rather than the stage. Of course, this happens in metros also. but in smaller places the music activity suffers in comparison.

Q : It is often seen that these organisors are too business-like, whereas art is basically emotion and creativity apart from being a science, especially Indian classical. Does not this personality of music organisations affect the music scene adversely ?
Satish : Indeed it does. Take the event managers. Many are doing an excellent job. But actually what they lack is the cultural core and that is crucial in classical music. Try as they might they do not understand the very essence of the art.

At the same time, organisors have also learnt up to the tricks of the trade. They have developed a lackadaisical attitude towards the programmes. They are bombarded by new talent and people wanting to perform at music festivals. They just ask these eager people send them their music cassettes. There is no personal evaluation, no attending of performances before finalisation of artists. The actual selection for performance anywhere based purely on well evaluated merit has been lost in this new trend.
An even greater evil has also emerged from this web of commercialism. There is new thing called sponsor pressure. Too young artists are also lured by the glitter of the media and often make half-baked debuts which was not the case earlier. Often artists have to be accommodated to please sponsors. Today, thus though talent sells, only talent does not. It has to be coupled with a selling technique.

Q : What is the future that you see for this system which has evolved?
Satish : In the direction of commercialism that we are proceeding at the moment, I think it is inevitable in the next few years to keep the concept of impressarios away from our scene. Impressarios, as they are called in the West, are artist managers in the fullest sense of the word. they underwrite contracts for the artists. Though a few people tried the system here earlier, it has not worked due to the Indian mentality. However, the system will take a long time to change but this is going to be important in the future for already the single most yardstick which decides the selection of an artist for any programme is how busy he or she is.

Q : Whom would you blame for this commercialism ? Is it not to be shared by our jet-set artists resorting to populist attempts often ?
Satish : I do not think that there is anything wrong in commercialism. Even today, there are many artists like my Guru Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Hari Prasad Chourasia and Zakir Hussain who make concessions and go to remote places for programmes.

However, I think that the audience is itself responsible for this situation if at all. The moment a free programme is announced they come in hordes. Even when families spend in hundreds and sometimes in thousands for just an evening out, they still hesitate to buy programme tickets.

Classical music becomes their love only when it comes free or cheap. They have to understand that the moment there is an economic lull, the corporate axe will fall on the sponsorships which are casual expenses for them. People have to wake up to this fact.