The Academy’s season kicked off on Saturday 15th with CM J Jayalalithaa inaugurating it. As in all Academy dos, it began and ended dot on time. Unprecedented crowds in the auditorium as compared to other years but then it is not every year we get a CM to come over.

What stood out was CM’s speech. I was amazed at the clarity and diction. After some years we have had a Chief Guest who knew the correct pronunciation of terms such as rasika, sahitya, bhava etc and also reeled off the names of composers effortlessly. I could not help contrasting it with what happened a few years back when we had a well-meaning law lord whose roots were up North. He fumbled while pronouncing Tyagaraja (Tyag raj) but then nobody had warned him that Muttuswami Dikshitar was next. This was a rather tall order. Muth he said and then paused. Muthu he continued and again paused. Muthus(now a desperate look around to see if anyone was laughing)… and then finally Muttuswami. After that Syama Sastry was a bagatelle.

For that matter, I have as a student attended a festival in Delhi where the redoubtable M Balamuralikrishna was to perform. The Chief Guest, was an IAS officer who had never heard of “Karnatki music” but did not lack in confidence. He referred to BMK as Mr Gopalkrishna right through. If BMK was offended he did not show it. Kept his charming smile on throughout.

But that is nothing compared to what happened when Semmangudi was felicitated by a musician from the north. He managed to juxtapose the syllables wrongly and Tamilians in the audience heard it all along as Guru “Massive Posterior” ji to put it mildly. The Grand Old Man of Carnatic music did not take offence. Coming back to the Academy event, the CM did not mention the Grand Old Man in her speech though she listed most of his contemporaries. Wonder why.

The card clearly said no cell phones allowed. But musicians and photographers are not subject to such rules I guess. There was at least one musician strutting around with it. Understandable that given the season schedule the artiste concerned may have missed reading the fine print on the invite. But then this artiste is not so busy… The photogs had their phones in full blast. From Gayatri japam to Opa Gangnam Style you heard it all.

After the inauguration was over, went across to the canteen. Coffee good, bondas mediocre, onion pakodas good. Murali Vijayaraghavan held us spellbound with some anecdotes about GNB, Palghat Mani Iyer and GOM. It transpires that …. but more on that later.

Yesterday heard Nisha Rajagopal at the Academy. Good voice and the solid hard work she has put in is very much evident. Flawless kamboji followed by Evvari Mata. The shanmukhapriya was a little less in comparison but the pallavi was well executed. I missed some of the ragamalika swarams because an elderly gent in the same row suddenly experienced difficulties. He had to be helped into his slippers and also escorted down the aisle. I did catch kharaharapriya and sunadavinodini if I am not mistaken. The mridangam support by Trivandrum Balaji was particularly good. I somehow felt a lot of MLV in the concert.

After the previous day’s four bondas I restricted myself to just one last evening. Moderate turnout at the concert. The Hyderabad Brothers came on next but I did not stay.