Source : Sri. V. Subramaniam, Senior Disciple
of Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
The contemporary kutcheri (concert)
had its arangetram ( or introduction ) in the 1920s as a pop
art form ,with a pulse on the mass psyche and a premium on entertainment value.
Pioneered and packaged by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, it had on its agenda first a pace-setting
varnam , next an arithmetic progression of kritis--with proportionately increasing doses of alapana,
neraval, kalpanaswaram et al -- then a long drawn out ragam - tanam - pallavi, duly offset by a
tukkada or two,to finish on the feel-good note of Madhyamavati (which incidentally became the
official valedictory ragam as it has the maximum degree of accordance and is therefore believed to
impart a measure of tranquillity to the listener).
compositions of the trinity in ghana ragams
(Nattai,Gowla,Arabhi, Varali,Sri, etc)
compositons in suddha madhyamam ragams
compositions in prati madhyamam ragams
(in naya/rakti ragam)
tukkadas(includes folk,patriotic music)/ tillana
This is the kutcheri paddhati--the
formatted sequence by which disparate pieces get layered into
their respective tiers. Mention must be made here of the solidity and stability of this structure.
Potential iconoclasts of the Ariyakudi kutcheri pattern have, interestingly enough, had little success
with their experiments.
Pre-Ariyakudi, the kutcheri (a.k.a. ‘vinikai’ in archaic Tamizh) had the laidback, almost
unstructured rhythms of a Hindustani recital, with say, an exhaustive Hamsadwani anticipating
an expansive Vatapi Ganapatim that would then spill over indefinitely into several hours before
there was a tani , if any, to set the tempo. A kutcheri then, being the musical index of the masses ,
necessitates a comprehensive planning of repertoire. This in turn is based on a careful appraisal of
the sabha janam, who even today, fit into three convenient cultural compartments :
- the dilettante band that can hold a ‘critical’ mirror up to the kutcheri
- the rasika who has but a ‘nodding’ acquaintance with the gospel of ragam and talam
- and the curious onlooker, happily unfettered by neither the burden of theory nor of ideology
However, a kutcheri that overindulges in gamaka gimmicks, hoping to pander to the former,
reduces itself to a tedious cerebral display which few can enjoy -- whereas one that plays to the
gallery with a fare of too many featherweight tukkadas ends up both diluting the concert and
undermining its audience in the process. In fact, this has less to do with the sizing up of an
audience’s interest quotient than with the principles of ‘kutcheri dharma’ itself -- by which the
principal performer ( gayaka /vocalist or vadyaka/instrumentalist, as the case may be ) owes
quality and excellence as a duty , both to the art forms/he practises, as also to the society which
constitutes the audience.
Which is what seems to be the malaise of the 1990s kutcheri. In the previous generations, some
aspect of a kutcheri used to haunt the rasika for days afterward. This hardly ever happens today.
Apart from the alarming density of concerts themselves , one sees an increasing tendency towards
a swaram-based singing of the ragam -- towards a phenomenon of jaw-dropping korvai special
effects that have all but usurped the steady sarvalaghu -- towards, in other words a self-conscious
‘intelligent’ singing, compressed as it were into a time span that allows only for half-hearted
thumbnail sketches of ragam. There is also a disquieting trend towards loudness invading the
concert platform, the exchange between vocalist and accompanists on the acoustic battlefield at
times threatening to break down into mere noise. This is possibly what results when the main
impulse is not an aesthetic one. Ragam singing, when more conceptual than swaram-based,
enables the persona of the ragam emerge in all its fulsome splendour. The fact of nagaswaram
vidwans (who had, in the yesteryears, singularly raised the business of ragam delineation to a fine
art) practically becoming an endangered species today, probably influences the subsequent wane
in imaginative ragam singing. With no models to look up to,then, ragam delineation remains a
pipe-dream for manya !
It is also interesting to note that apart from the functional classification of kutcheris into paatu
(vocal), vaadya (instrumental), natya (dance), vikata (mimicry) and kadamba (variety
entertainment), music historians also recognise
1. the thengaimoodi kutcheri in the temple premises where the artiste is honoured with the
prasadam (plantains, coconut halves or thengaimoodi and flowers) after the concert.
2. the panakutcheri, which rules the day, where the artiste is paid monetary remuneration after
Patronage hierarchy down the ages
Zamindars ( or Landlords)
Kalyana kutcheris ( or Concert at Marriages )
Sabhas ( or Music Associations )