For the first time in 93 years, Chennai’s iconic December music festival, which brings together the finest exponents of Carnatic classical music and dance and the cultural cognoscenti, will go completely digital.

The 12 sabhas that make up the “Margazhi music season” in Chennai are racing to finish the recordings of the virtual concerts, dance programmes and drama. They will be webcast from December 15 to January 15 on Kalakendra’s site as well as on Youtube. Says K Harishankar, Secretary of the Federation of City Sabhas, “Every day, 4-5 programmes will be launched starting with Thiruppavai (Tamil devotional poem) and Namasankeerthanam in the morning.”

N Murali, president, The Music Academy, said that while it will be difficult to recreate the ambience and mood of the season on the digital platform, they have tried to make the experience exciting for rasikas (afficionados) .

While music lovers have something to look forward to, for Chennai hotels which look forward to the annual inflow of music pilgrims to the city, it is a bad blow. Many regular attendees are also ruing the fact that they will miss the sumptuous food that various Sabhas dish out during the festival.

Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad, the four-decade old Saptak, a 13-day-long music festival with a global following is also going digital.

Star performers

Recorded versions of performances by flute legend Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, violin maestro N Rajam, noted Kathak exponent Pt Birju Maharaj, Vocalists Ustad Rashid Khan, Shubha Mudgal among others will be streamed online on


“We knew there would be challenges of conducting online concerts. But of the three options, either cancelling it this year, or postponing it by a few months or holding it online, we found the last option most practical and acceptable,” said Prafull Anubhai, Trustee at Saptak Trust.

He points out that for the artistes too, doing recorded concerts in front of blank halls is challenging. “Artistes draw inspiration from their listeners and the ambience,” he points out.

A festival that draws over 140 artistes including accompanists in normal years will now be reduced to a little more than 80 artistes. The total number of performances have been reduced from 43-44 earlier to just 30 now. For organisers, this has brought down the costs, but it has also impacted the donations causing a strain on finances.

On the other hand, going online will take this musical extravaganza to a global audience rather than the 1,500-2,000 people who can fit into the concert halls of Ahmedabad.