Why the Madras Music Festival must go on

No matter what, Life goes on…and so every show must go on too!
Since the Chennai floods arrived around the same time that the famous annual Madras Music Festival was set to begin last week, there is considerable debate on whether artistes and sabhas should go ahead with the festival this season.
I believe they should. The Festival must go on.
However, the choice to perform or not must be with left to the artistes. If they feel like performing, they must. And if they don’t feel like it, they may like not to! To be sure, the Dhananjayans, Vijay Siva, Bombay Jayashri and a few others have chosen not to perform. And yet Sanjay Subrahmanyam performed yesterday.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with either choice. Music, if anything, is a form of expression of inner joy. Undoubtedly, all artistes, like everyone else is, are tormented by the floods in Chennai and the havoc it has caused in the lives of her citizens. While some artistes may want to immerse themselves in their music at this time, to get over their feeling of grief or to invoke their inner peace, others may not be able to bring themselves up to sing. And we must respect their individual choices and sentiments. Having said that, we must not forget that music has enormous healing power when it is performed as an offering to the Universe. No artiste really performs just for money or fame. They fundamentally perform because they lose themselves to the act of performing. When music, in fact when any work or service, is delivered with such selflessness, when it is an invocation and not just a mere stage performance, it heals. What Chennai – and the world at large – needs now is healing. In my humble opinion, going ahead with the Madras Music Festival this season would be not just right and apt, it will be hugely healing as well.
And, irrespective of what artistes and sabhas decide over this week, on what they want to do, let us not judge anyone. After all, all our lives will go on. They have to go on. Weddings will happen – given the season’s muhurthams already having been calibrated per an almanac – people will go to the movies, to parties and to nightclubs, cricket and football (ISL – Indian Super League) will be played and the Christmas and New Year festivities will soon be indulged in. Moping and mourning – not just now, but at any time – serves no purpose. If anything it can make people depressive. And what the people in Chennai need now is an uplifting energy, a celebration of human spirit, which only music can provide instantaneously – and uniformly!
One of the historic examples of the role musicians and music played at a calamitous time is of violinist Wallace Hartley and his band playing on even as the Titanic sank on the night of 14~15 April, 1912. After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. To me, that’s true heroism, that’s a true celebration of Life!
Celebration does not always have to mean shouting from rooftops or dancing meaninglessly in an inebriated state. The whole journey of Life is a celebration – of being alive, of being human, of being a miracle. Death too is a celebration, as Osho, the Master, would say. His perspective: it’s freedom from the illusion called Life! On that spiritual plane, any loss – physical, material, emotional – is always an opportunity to start afresh. What Chennai needs now is that impetus, that fresh start, that new beginning…

So, to the artistes of Chennai, I would simply say, let the music play on….because the show, called Life, must go on…!

Accept each moment with gratitude and humility!


Accept whatever you get with gratitude and humility. Be grateful for the moment. That’s all there is to Life!

Is that it?

Indeed. This is it.

This moment is all that you__and I__have. Embrace it, immerse yourself in it and you will not have any problem with it and in Life whatsoever!

Bombay Jayashri: Grateful for the moment
The first time, more than a decade ago, I attempted to read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’, it went over my head. Now, when I look back, I think the book didn’t needed that many pages as it eventually had! Just the title was enough to convey the power of the message, the essence of the lesson it taught! This morning, something I read in The Hindu, amplified this learning one more time. My good friend K.T.Jagannathan, interviewing celebrated Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri, in The Hindu’s op-ed page, asks her of her Oscar nomination for her song ‘Pi’s Lullaby’ from Ang Lee’s 2012 movie ‘Life of Pi’. I quote the relevant part of that interview verbatim.



KTJ: What does this Oscar nomination mean to you? Where do you take-off from here?

BJ: It means so much to me, Indian music and musicians. I feel I have been chosen to represent them all. I really don’t know where I go from here. But I am just grateful for the moment. That’s all I can think of at the moment.
So beautiful. That she should just choose to celebrate the moment and be grateful for it! One can go on and look at the larger impacts the nomination can have in the Life of an artist like Jayashri, for Indian classical music in general and for Carnatic music in particular. One can talk of how India has once again proven to the whole world what we are made of and blah and blah. But the beauty, the joy, resides in the moment. And in celebrating it Jayashri has chosen the more evolved path – of living with what is!

Well, it’s easy to celebrate an Oscar moment the realist may argue. Pointing out that it is so difficult to celebrate a tragedy. Pain. Suffering. Death. How do you celebrate such moments when all you want is for it to go away? A joyous occasion you will want it to linger on, stay longer. And a painful one, you just want it over and done with. How then do you stay in such a moment and what power does it have in our Life?

You stay in a painful moment the same way as you stay in a happy one __ with acceptance. Moments don’t come labeled happy or sad. These labels you give them. Your mind is the villain – it goes on labeling it. A moment becomes sad because you dislike it. And it becomes a happy one when you like it. What if you liked every moment? Then won’t every moment be a happy one? This is the simplest and the easiest way to understand bliss and to attain it. Imagine your Life’s a big status message box, just as the one that sits on top of your facebook Wall. Each moment’s definition is a new status message. All you have to do is imagine that in Life, just as it is presently on facebook, there are no Dislike buttons and all you can do is simply Like each status message, each moment! This technique may not prevent pain from coming your way. But it will eradicate suffering for sure.

For instance, you cannot prevent death in your family or in your circle of influence. The nature of Life is such that the moment birth happens, death is inevitable. So, the best way forward towards peace and bliss, in Life, is to accept death as an inevitable reality. Surely, when a person you know and love dies, there will be pain. Enormous pain. But there will be no suffering because you have ‘liked’, by accepting, the non-negotiable dimension of Life called death! If you have transcended death, if you are no longer running scared of it, what else can move you or trouble you in Life?

Wanting a painful moment to go away IS the cause of your suffering. Replace that want with acceptance. Do away with all disliking and indulge only in liking what is. Because there are no ifs, buts, or logic, in and to Life! It is what it is. Period. And each moment is teaching us the immeasurable value of celebration, patience, faith and acceptance. So, deal with Life’s moments the same way as you would deal with the teacher that taught you in primary school__greet each moment with heartfelt gratitude and immense humility. Bliss and abundance will follow!  

For the musically inclined, here’s the video clip of Bombay Jayashri’s Oscar nominated ‘Pi’s Lullaby’!