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Chennai: Finding music in darkness

CHENNAI: Over the last ten months, the country’s nearly 40 million blind population has had to rise above several unprecedented challenges that the pandemic has brought about. From the absence of touch – the primary sense around which their world is built – the struggles with navigation and loss of jobs, the year has been many notches tougher for them than the rest of us.

The ‘Concert in the Dark’ series, which Anil performs every year blindfolded to an audience seated inside a pitch dark auditorium, is aimed at helping the latter empathise with the cause. This year however, it will be presented virtually as short 15-minute performances in collaboration with violinist Manoj Kumar, and singers Shakthisree Gopalan and Sathyaprakash, who will also perform blindfolded. In addition to this Anil and Sathyaprakash are also performing a partially blindfolded live concert on Christmas Eve, which is being sponsored and presented by UK-based arts development trust Milapfest.

“We are also starting a social media festival called #LoveIs-Blind, inviting all artists – amateurs and professionals – to share one song or creative work blindfolded, to highlight the charity and reflect on how this pandemic has been on this community,” says Anil.

Over the years, the ‘Concert in the Dark’ series has grown in scale and popularity. Last year, it was showcased in partnership with Aravind Eye Hospital and Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, in other parts of the state. According to Anil, ₹1 lakh has been raised as part of ticket sales already for this year’s edition.

“Although the experience is longer and more powerful live, we’ve tried to curate it into shorter presentations to keep virtual audiences engaged. The event is all the more crucial this year, as Gnanadarshan’s usual donors as well as resources have been severely hit following the pandemic,” says Anil.

Manoj says the experience was surreal and unlike any other setting. “I was able to fully disconnect from my environment and lose myself in the music. I am certain that it will be an eye opener for the viewers as well, as an important awareness builder on the challenges and requirements of our visually-challenged population,” he says. The ‘Concert in the Dark’ series will begin with performances by Anil and Shakthisree on December 11, followed by concerts with Sathyaprakash and Manoj Kumar on December 12 and 13 respectively. Anil’s fulllength live concert with Sathyaprakash will take place on December 24.