We, the Carnatica Brothers K.N.Shashikiran & P.Ganesh, are South Indian Classical duo singers. We live in Chennai, but hop around the world for most part of the year, performing concerts, lecture demonstrations, conducting workshops and camps and teaching our students around the world! If you'd like to contact us for performances or if you'd just like to say hi, feel free to mail us at carnaticabrothersatgmaildotcom! :)
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Article for the Times of India

This season, I'm writing for the Times of India. In this post and the ones that will follow, you can read the original versions of the articles, before they went through the editor's scalpel.

Behind the Curtains

After a spell of torrential rains caused by cyclone Nisha, the downpour has just started again – for it will rain music in Chennai for the next one month, during the famed ‘December Music Season’!

The music flows unabated year after year, but exactly what goes on behind the curtains? What does the season mean to musicians? How do they prepare – physically, mentally and musically - for the season? How do they cope with the enormous expectations from rasikas, who look for variety? How do they handle the pressure of having to perform 15 – 20 concerts within a span of 30 days? How do they relax between concerts?

Gearing up for the season

For the musicians, a lot of effort goes into preparing for the season. This is the time when old recordings are fished out, new songs learnt, old songs re-learnt and refined. Some organize jamming sessions with fellow musicians, to share musical ideas and learn from one another. Instrumentalists work harder on their respective styles and also on adapting to the styles of the main performers.

For young artistes, the season is a platform to gain acceptance. Several organization heads and critics attend concerts, hoping to spot an exceptional talent or two. NRI artistes also perform in the city during the season, hoping to establish a foothold in the Chennai concert scene. Senior musicians shoulder the responsibility of passing on the traditional values of the system to the younger generation, to whom they are mentors. For the accompanists, some of whom perform fifty to sixty concerts – sometimes two or three a day – the season is a test of their stamina! Striking the right balance, in terms of creativity, ragas, talas, composers, tempo, languages, classical pieces and tukkadas is a challenge in itself for any musician – but a pleasant one at that!

Once the preparation is done, the musicians’ community is raring to go. The city and its rasikas are all set too. But let’s hope that we don’t listen to Amrithavarshini, the rain raga, too frequently this season!

“Chennai wears a festive look in December. The season has always been special to me,” says the cyclone’s namesake, vocalist Nisha Rajagopalan, echoing the sentiments of the music fraternity.

For vocalist Aruna Sairam, who is an overwhelming audience favourite, the December season is about “re-inventing” herself, “much like a snake shedding its old skin. I find a new me every season. I focus on my strengths; I understand my weaknesses and work on them.”

Concert preparation

Do musicians prepare for every individual concert? The answer is yes. And no. Some musicians do not prepare specifically for any of their concerts, because that leaves them handicapped if the previous concert on that day had also featured the same songs or ragas. There are some that decide only on the songs for each concert. The audience, the ambience and the mood decide which creative elements they will explore, to what extent and how. For some other musicians, a lot of meticulous homework goes into each concert. “Fulfilling the expectations of hundreds of rasikas with varied tastes is a Herculean challenge!” says young vocalist Saketharaman.

Coping with pressure

For vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyan, known for his blend of tradition and innovation, the season brings with it a lot of pressure, because of the enormous number of concerts he performs. So how does he maintain his voice? “Oh, I don’t – because my voice isn’t very good anyway!” he replies. His fans may not agree though! “But I do avoid too many phone calls,” he continues. “As for the mental fatigue, I’ve just gotten used to it these days!”

Aruna Sairam, on the other hand, picks her concerts carefully. “I’m performing eight concerts this season”. She has spaced them well too, ensuring she sings not more than two every week.

The December season is not the best time for the voice, thanks to the cold climate and the omnipresent fog. So artistes take extra care to protect their voices, through their hectic schedules. Many of them follow a strict diet regimen, avoiding too much oil or spices and not eating too much, particularly before a concert. Nevertheless, the artistes keep the ENT specialists, homeopathy and ayurveda doctors busy for most of the season!

Some musicians keep fit with regular practice of pranayama and yoga. There are some who take a vacation and come back just in time for the season, with renewed zest and vigour. The holiday helps them rejuvenate themselves and gets their creative juices flowing!

Making style statements

Many musicians also try to connect with the audience in ways that don’t involve music! French beards, fashionable ear studs, tattoos, streaked hair, designer kurtas and sarees are in! Some musicians also consciously cultivate mannerisms that the audience goes gaga over – so much so, that sometimes the mannerisms attract more attention than the music!

Another fad you will see this season is keeping in shape! If you thought only sportsmen keep fit, think again – for the musicians are becoming fitness freaks too! Thanks to the fact that singing involves sitting long hours, not many musicians exercise enough. But now, they’re hitting the gyms! So you’ll catch a leaner bunch of musicians on stage this season!

Then and Now

Has anything changed since the time the current lot of top musicians were upcoming artistes? Carnatic music has definitely remained the same, but the way we package it to suit audiences’ tastes has changed. Our music has evolved. And evolution, needless to say, is good for any art form.

So what was it like for performers in the 1950’s and earlier? “I’ve been performing for over sixty five years,” octogenarian violin maestro Prof. T.N.Krishnan says. “There were only three sabhas then and there weren’t as many artistes as there are now. But the December season has always been special. The number of artistes has increased now; so has the audience. Audiences everywhere had similar tastes back then; now there are a wide variety of tastes. I practice regularly even now. I haven’t changed my style and I definitely understand what I play much better!”

Times have changed; audiences have grown; artistes have matured, but the music lives on! And the December season is here yet again, bigger than ever, so let’s drench ourselves in the musical rain, shall we?

K. N. Shashikiran

Welcome to the Carnatica Brothers' blog!

Read our views on various music-related issues, get updates on our concert schedule and see our latest photos. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to our music. Comment on the blog posts and keep in touch with us through our blog!

Concert Schedule

  • July 29th - Aug 26th (Mon-Fri) - Carnatic Summer Course (Middlesex Community College)
  • Aug 14th - Aug 16th - Chicago (Workshop for Akshaya)
  • Aug 27th - Sept 11th - Carnatic Summer Camp (Novi, Michigan)
  • Sept 12th - World Peace Concert (Detroit)
  • Sept 18th - Oct 13th - Europe tour (Details will be put up soon!)

Tracks from our albums

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Shashikiran's solo renditions & his musical score for the dance-drama 'Silappadikaram'

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Concert Recordings

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