Posted by: Madhavi CN | January 4, 2011

Maladies From Melodies

On January 2nd,  I came across this funny piece in The Hindu, by Dr. G. Ramanujam on the maladies of  the audience who sits through melodious performances. I found out what the ‘Musicobacter’ causes in me. Check out if you have any symptoms too. If none exist, you can at least have a few laughs at our cost.

New Delhi was recently the epicentre of a crisis involving NDM-1 bacteria. In Chennai too, there is a seasonal serious infection that is grossly under-diagnosed. It is caused by a resistant bacterium, Musicobacter, which has two species Musicobacter Carnatica — which is more common — and M.Hindustania. The infection peaks in winter, especially December and January. Though it is epidemic in Chennai, sporadic cases can be found in other cities or countries. It is probably the only bacterium that spreads through ears.

The affected individuals show the following symptoms and signs:

Selective amnesia: The person forgets exactly the name of the raga in which the singer sings and recollects a list of related albeit wrong ragas (Rathipathi priya or Rashtra pathi priya?). Sometimes, long-term memory will be hyper-active. He may say “I heard GNB singing this in 1948 at Academy on a Sunday evening when it was raining heavily.”

Violent epileptic-fits like movements: These include shaky movements of the head associated with uttering of words like “ Sabash! Besh Besh!” even though the concert has not yet started and the sound system person is checking the mikes. Sometimes violent, jerky, highly irregular movements of hands collide with each other and also on one’s (sometimes the next person’s) own lap. These movements are erroneously called talams.

Acalculia (difficulty in calculating): The above said movements are sometimes associated with chaotic counting of fingers or even toes! It may occur even during an Aalapana. There is always a perfect mismatch between their counting and the singer’s.

Voracious appetite: The affected individuals have voracious appetite. They visit the canteens soon after a varnam (usual opening number) is sung. Not visiting the canteen during the thani avarthanam (solo percussion) is considered a sin.

Hypersomnia (Increased sleep): They are found sleeping with a snore that perfectly synchronises with the shruthi box’s ‘SA Pa SA’. This is commonly seen in morning lecture demonstrations like ‘Simmendhra madhyamam and its Sisters’.

Hearing disturbances: The infected people have severe hearing disturbances. On hearing a music they may ask, “Is it Seshagopalan?” while, in fact, the tape may be a violin recording.

Praecox performances: The individuals develop intense belief of delusional proportion that their offspring is a prodigy. On hearing them sing ‘Ba ba black sheep,’ they immediately identify an M.S. lying dormant inside. They arrange for praecox (premature) performances of their children, sometimes known as Arangettram.

Podio philia: This denotes the intense craving for occupying the podium. This is common among the chief guests who invariably talks at length about the singer to the extent that the audience may not at all get a chance to hear him sing. Sometimes the podiophilic chief guest sings a few lines to show his knowledge or even make a few choreographic steps in a dance concert.

Hyper logia: This refers to increased speech or loquacity. The persons talk uninhibitedly, over a wide variety of subjects like CAG, CWG, and ECG, especially when the singer is at his peak.

Treatment: As the disease is self-limiting it settles by mid January only to recur next year. Since the severity is inversely related to music knowledge improving good music appreciation is the best prevention.

Annex: One symptom that has not been mentioned is Hypergraphia or increased writing wherein everybody (including psychiatrists) becomes a music critic and starts writing about music and concerts.

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