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…!
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Whatever happens, let your music play…..


Whatever happens, know that Life will go on. And you too must flow with it, ‘letting your music play’!

There are times in Life when you wish you could do something about what you are faced with. But you will be unable to. So, instead of hating what you have been served, just start loving it and live in the moment.

I watched ‘Titanic’, James Cameroon’s classic movie, one more time during the weekend. And learned one more time from the amazing musicians on how to ‘let the music play’ till the very end.

Wikipedia says: “After the Titanichit an iceberg and began to sink, Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster and violinist, and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. None of the band members survived the sinking and the story of them playing to the end became a popular legend. One survivor who clambered aboard ‘Collapsible A’ claimed to have seen Hartley and his band standing just behind the first funnel, by the Grand Staircase. He went on to say that he saw three of them washed off while the other five held on to the railing on top the Grand Staircase’s deckhouse, only to be dragged down with the bow, just before Hartley exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell!” A newspaper at the time reported “the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea.””

I wouldn’t say it is heroism. It is simply intelligent living. Because you can only control what’s within your control. All your worries and anxieties, fears and insecurities, come from what you can’t control. Now, instead of worrying, fearing and suffering, if you can just look at the situation and say, “Well, well, well….if this is what it is, let me see how I can find peace within this situation.” This really is the only way to live a Life which we didn’t ask for and whose game-plan we have no idea of either!

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Let us remember that there is the opportunity, always available to us, to change our most dreadful moments into ones full of grace! All we need to do is to be open to the opportunity. When we are grieving, mourning, sorrowful, we are closed. We are not open to the Universe’s energy __ its compassion, its warmth, its grace. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has said, “The winds of grace are always blowing. You must open and hoist your sails to catch it.

So, unfurl and open your sails, open up your soul. If you are in a difficult time, accept it. Don’t resist it. This may not take the pain away. But it will help you immensely by ridding you of all your suffering! This then is the only way to ‘let your music play’….