Disclaimer: I am in no way a connoisseur of Indian classical music, though I did study it formally for a few years. I do not claim to have the expertise to do a commentary on the subject. This note is purely from the point of view of a lover of classical art.
Recently I stumbled upon IndianRaga, a digital arts education startup whose new age classical music and dance videos presented by artists mostly from outside India have been going viral on YouTube. Some of their content is wonderful and addictive. I was particularly enchanted by this presentation of the Carnatic song Shri Vighnarajam Bhaje by the seventeenth century composer Oothukkaadu Venkatasubba Iyer.
I call this a presentation and not a rendition of the well-known song as the music is only one aspect of the video. While the song is rendered melodiously with precision and feeling by the singers Shraddha Mohan and Aravind Sundar conforming to all three essential components of Carnatic music- Bhaava (Emotion), Raaga (Melody), and Taala (Rhythm), the experience that reaches the listener or in this case the viewer is an aesthetic blending of music, dance, and visuals of artists who are presumably in other locations playing on the flute and the drum respectively. The song commences not with the traditional first two lines but with the second stanza, and then goes on to the first and follows it through to the end while the dance steps and instruments fade in and out, in harmony. The visuals of the calm waves washing against the shore where the artists sing and dance add to the peaceful vibes. The overall effect is very pleasant. However, it is also very different from the experience of listening to a live concert where a musician explores the notes of a raaga bringing out the beauty of its structure through various combinations of intonations and cadences in front of the audience.
This is also an interesting development in the digital marketing of classical arts. While a few puritans may argue that the edited and polished videos are far removed from the experience of a live concert which is the only test of real talent, some of these videos have millions of YouTube views and hundreds of comments applauding the evolution of the classical arts into a new form which is accessible to the viewers at multiple levels.
Some of the other noteworthy tracks by the startup include mixed renditions of stanzas from the fifteenth century Thiruppugazh poems and lively fusion tracks like this Carnatic version of Shape of You by Ed Sheeran.
Does Carnatic music need this kind of a makeover? As a lay person who loves the art, I think it is a right step as art evolves with technology, keeping the ancient art alive while offering rich experiences like these to the listeners. The new-age evolution of classical art is on and it sounds, and looks promising.