Chennai's Carnatic concert in the park for children is back

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The Sunday Kutcheri in the Park has served as a launch platform for budding young artistes for 14 years. [Representative image]

Chennai-based non banking finance company Sundaram Finance Ltd (SFL) is gearing up to relaunch its hugely popular open-air mikeless concerts for children. The monthly event had been forced to halt following the outbreak of COVID-19.

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Now that the restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19 are being lifted, SFL has decided to resurrect the open-air mikeless concert series, which had an uninterrupted 14-year run before the COVID-19 interlude.

Continuing a tradition

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Come April 3, the resurrected concert series will feature a one-hour flute kutcheri (kutcheri means concert in Tamil) between 7 am and 8 am featuring 12-year-old P. Viswanathan, a schoolboy under the tutelage of Chittoor K. Pathanjali.

“The Sunday Kutcheri in the Park has served as a launch platform for budding young artistes for 14 years, and has now become an integral part of Chennai’s cultural fabric. With the pandemic behind us, we are excited to re-launch the open-air mikeless kutcheri at the famed Nageswara Rao Park and look forward to providing opportunities every month to young children to showcase their musical talent in front of an informal audience,” said Rajiv Lochan, MD, Sundaram Finance Ltd.

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Lochan, who took over as MD of SFL amid the Coronavirus, expressed happiness to see the popular concert series back. The company had launched this unique concept way back in February 2006, providing opportunities to children under 15 years of age at early morning mikeless concerts. The kutcheris took place amid the chirping of birds and the rustle of falling leaves at the Nageswara Rao Park, a historic location in Mylapore, in the heart of Chennai.

While there is a constant lament about the lack of opportunities for young, unknown artists to showcase their musical talent, SFL, which is over six decades old, has been successfully running the concerts since 2006. To date, around 1,400 children have been given the opportunity to perform in this public park, which the company has been maintaining for close to two decades.

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The Sunday Kutcheri in the Park concept has already gone into the Limca Book of Records as the longest-running open-air mikeless concert in the country.

In selecting artistes, Sundaram Finance follows an audition model, where children are first tested for their voice and then chosen to perform at the park.

Showcasing talent

Chennai is considered the Mecca of Carnatic Music, and the kutcheri series has established a connection with the cultural roots and ethos of the city. The mikeless concert is, in a sense, a talent-hunt initiative for singers, focusing on catching them young.

Former Sundaram Finance managing director TT Srinivasaraghavan, who was instrumental in the launch of this unique mikeless concert concept, had told this writer many years ago that the idea of the Kutcheri in the Park was to provide a launchpad for upcoming artistes.

“We chose to focus on young children, catch them young and restrict it to children below 15 years as we believed it would help them shed their inhibitions and give them the confidence to move up to the next level. For us, the first Sunday of every month is their day. The young children are the stars of the show. For most children, this is their first Kutcheri.”

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This model has also generated interest among aspirants from the U.S. and the Middle East, who come all the way from overseas locations to perform at the Kutcheri in Mylapore.

In addition to the monthly Sunday Concert, Sundaram Finance also organises mikeless concerts during the popular festival of Navratri, and as a part of the four-day annual Mylapore Festival.

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