The soft chant of the Suprabatham in the beautiful voice of MS Subbalakshmi awakens the city. In some neighbourhoods the peal of church bells and the call of the Muezzin wafts through the air.
Religion is a living breathing, integral part of this city. When there is a festival from Pongal to Varusha Pirappu, Thai Poosam and Adi Fridays, Krishna Janmashtami, Navaratri and the cold mornings of Margazhi, music too is a vital part of all these festivals.
Chennai’s chimes begin with the clink of the dabbara tumbler–the two receptaclesin which coffee is served. The scraping sound of the long iron ladle on a deep iron wok placed on a iron stove and carted around in a push cart as the vendor roasts peanuts is a distinctive sound.
Music is a great integrating factor. Chennai is also the arena where the best performers—Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, popular numbers, folk arts, Western ensembles and quartets—all congregate from November to February. A performance in one of the leading sabhas is the stamp of excellence on any performer. The sabhas and auditoriums, resound to the various notes, beats and rhythms of classical music.
English, French and German plays are staged regularly. The Tamizh drama scene is dominated by comedy. Serious drama in Tamizh is restricted to a handful of performers. The stalwarts of drama have all migrated to cinema and Kodambakkam-Vadapalani is the background for the most number of cinemas to be produced in India. Animation is a fledgling industry and along with IT is a great means of expressing creativity.
Chennai is the home of Bharathnatyam with Kalakshetra and many other excellent teachers with their schools imparting dance education and qualifying world class dancers. A you walk on the streets of Mylapore or Gopalapuran, T Nagar or Adyar, you can hear the beat of the dance teachers stick as she does the Nattuvangam and the dancing bells of students going thaiyya thai! Dance is in the very graceful sway of the women of Chennai. Most of the girls from students, to vegetable sellers, housewives to IT pros wear the silver anklets on their feet and the tinkle of these bells add a great deal of life and colour to the streets of the city.
Religious discourses, study of Vedas and Sanskrit flourishes in this city giving it the spiritual ambience. The sound of the cymbals accompanying the bhajan groups are an important part of the early morning scene in December. The drum beats accompany any procession be it political, weddings, ritual temple events and funerals.
The many radio, FM and TV channels reiterates how important the visual medium is in this city. There is a record number of newspapers and magazines in the regional and English language in the country.
Culture in this capital Chennai, is the very raison d’ etre of every citizen. The pulse of the people keeps perfect beat to the rhythm of life, of music, of tradition and modernity. Heritage is a respected word and even the cadences of the spoken language flow with a basic musical note.
The sound of reversing vehicles adds to the chimes of the city as do the double horns of taxi drivers and the pom pom of the klaxon by auto drivers. Horns can be deceptive for a deep bass sounding horn or a raucous blast can be from a teeny weeny two wheeler while the peep of a sophisticated horn could be a BMW! The sirens of ambulances punctuate the atmosphere day and night especially if you are in and around hospitals!
This is Chennai the city that chimes with different sounds!