The performing arts will enjoy the best of both worlds — live and virtual — in the coming year
Bharat Sundar: During the days of isolation, I went into an introspective mode. I learnt several significant musical lessons. I revisited old compositions, listened to legendary vocalists and learnt rare ragas. This self-immersive experience has reshaped my approach to virtual concerts. In 2021, even if we get back to performing for a live audience, virtual will exist alongside. We might be amazed by innovations in presentation, style and in the flexibility of format. Since listeners can go back repeatedly to virtual concert recordings, in the coming days, artistes will strive harder to make every concert sound different. The evolving repertoire may feature thematic concerts, new songs, and a more rasika-friendly line up.
Nisha Rajagopalan: The pandemic accelerated trends that initially seemed bizarre to the classical music world. They altered the way we perform and listen to music. It looks as if even when the crisis abates, the changes may be repositioned or adapted, as both artistes and audiences have realised the digital medium’s reach and accessibility. It is also heartening to see rasikas subscribing to online festivals, a great way to support art and artistes. True, virtual lacks the energy and atmosphere of an auditorium. But technology has ensured the live concert experience remains, albeit in a different form. This year music is all set to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Kunnakudi Balamurali Krishna: Virtual concerts are here to stay. Gear up to hear more of them in 2021. If you are performing live at a sabha in Chennai and can be heard simultaneously in New Delhi and New Jersey, then who’s complaining. Though desperate times call for desperate measures, I am in awe of the way the classical world has embraced and responded to the change. Cultural organisations have been making efforts to provide high-quality live streaming. In the past 10 months, virtual music has evolved more than it may have in the last few years under normal circumstances, and this has opened up unexplored avenues. The only downside is that music fighting a battle with OTT media service and social media for attention and virtual space.
Rama Vaidyanathan: Classical dance going digital has been one of the most unexpected outcomes of the pandemic. Though dancers were forced to take to streaming platforms to stay connected with audiences, in the process they have learnt to create content or rework the conventional repertoire to suit the medium. They have begun to think in terms of camera angles. They have also begun to reimagine expressions, movements, make-up and costume for the lens. When dancers get back to the stage this year, they will consciously draw from the experience of performing in virtual spaces. All this means, in 2021, we might get to see some well-thought-out presentations, inspired as much by technology as tradition.
Urmila Sathyanarayanan: The New Year will take dancers back to where they belong — the stage. The joy is in dancing for a live audience than for the camera. In 2021, I hope we regain our lost rhythm. Traditional pieces will continue to hold sway despite the increasing demand to do something different. Even young dancers are fascinated by the vast scope the margam (Bharatanatyam repertoire) offers to reinterpret and reimagine. Group productions are exciting to watch, but the solo dancer will never lose prominence. Streaming will gain in popularity, but we should not let short-term challenges overwhelm the long-term purpose of art.