Margazhi, the Tamil month that falls between December and January, is when Chennai enters its ‘Winter-Is-Coming’ mode (It actually never arrives, but the joke’s on you). The period is also when the event calendars are marked full. Some sabha hop, others reserve seats for theatre shows or dance programmes. Choices are aplenty if you enjoy spending your December evenings with cultural programmes.
In Chennai, the Margazhi season is considered synonymous with the classical arts, usually patronised by upper class and upper caste groups. However, director Pa Ranjithh's Neelam Cultural Centre is launching a programme that will highlight the talents of other performing arts that don't often receive their due.
While the pandemic has considerably reduced live programmes, Neelam Cultural Centre has planned an interesting line-up of events to end this year on an upbeat note. Starting December 24 and leading up to The Casteless Collective’s live performance on New Year’s Eve, December 31, this Margazhi is truly going to be a feast of makkal isai (people’s music).
நீலம் பண்பாட்டுமையம் வழங்கும் #மார்கழியில்_மக்களிசை விரைவில்.— pa.ranjith (@beemji) December 4, 2020
நாட்டுப்புறப்பாட்டு, கானா, ஒப்பாரி ,ஹிப் ஹாப், ராப், ராக் என்று அனைத்தும் உண்டு.
இடமும், தேதியும் விரைவில் அறிவிக்கப்படும்.#Chennai #artfestival@beemji @Neelam_Culture @neelamroots pic.twitter.com/LOaIM6iCTH
In 2018, during the launch of Vaanam Arts Festival, Ranjith had remarked on arts being for the people. “Mao said: ‘Arts is for the people’. ‘But who are the people?’ is a question that’s probably inside all of us. Are the art forms that have been accepted thus far alone art? I’ve had this question from when I was young. Why was the art that I enjoyed as a youngster not been given a platform on the main stage? They usually associate parai music with kuthu songs but even in cinema, kuthu music has been treated with lesser respect. I really enjoy parai music, but why was this not accepted by larger sections of the society?” the director had said during the inaugural function.
Margazhiyil Makkal Isai, which will be held following physical distancing norms, hopes to boost practitioners of native arts and performers in Tamil Nadu. From Naattupura Isai and gaana to oppari, hip-hop and rap, the Margazhiyil Makkal Isai schedule has a variety of programmes to choose from.
Independent musician Tenma, who also leads The Casteless Collective, sounds excited to be performing in front of a live audience after a while. “The band’s coming together to perform on the home turf after a very long time. We’re all just getting back together after walking our own ways for a short while,” he says. Notably, in 2018 during Vaanam, The Casteless Collective launched their debut album Magizhchi.
Despite the pandemic, this year was a great one for most of its members. Isaivani, the band’s only female singer, was named in the BBC's '100 Women 2020' list while singers Gana Balachander and Arivu have sung and penned lyrics for Tamil films.
Tickets and season passes for the event can be purchased online and are priced from Rs 100. The programmes will be hosted at Vani Mahal, Mylapore Fine Arts and Raja Annamalai Hall. Here’s the schedule:
Events at Vani Mahal
Folk show performed by VM Mahalingam and Adhimelam Parai Isai Kuzhu. Sundharam from Salem
Natupuram show performed by Dalit Subbiah, Roja Aditiya and Kalai Nan Mani MSP Thangavel Dingukkal parai Isai Kuzhu.
Gana show performed by Gana Singers from Chennai, Thudumbattam and Newton Kuzhuvinar, Chennai
Events at Mylapore Fine Arts
HipHop show performed by HIPHOP: Vedan, Black Boys, Mc Debes, VJ Vijay, Kalki, Shanthini
Indie by Siennor
Oppari show performed by Pesu JK Team - Satti parai Oppari, Attakathi Muthu, Cherykuyil Settu, Muthammal, Backiyammal, Suseela Prakash
Events at Raja Annamalai Hall
Arivoli show performed by Anthakudi Ilaiyaraja, Tha Mu Ek Ka Sa - ARIVOLI, and Pambaiyattam, Sakthi, Salem
Themmangu show performed by Sithan Jeyamurthy, and Kariapatti Sekar Kootisai Nayyandi, Virudhunagar
On December 31, the final day of the festival, The Casteless Collective will perform and will be joined by Pappampatti Jamba Periya Melam and Munusamy, Thiruvannamalai. The venue of the finale is yet to be announced. All events begin post 5 pm.