The very mention of "Carnatic Musician" would typically bring in images of either a man with a kudumi, with layers of Vibhuti or Naamam, dotted liberally in between, with Kumkumam, in a Silk dhoti and Angavastram ( later adapted to silk shirts), or a lady in nine-yard sarees, face awash in turmeric, and a big Kumumam on the forehead, garnished by a liberal dose of gold and dazzling diamonds.
Sartorial preferences have morphed over the last 3 or 4 decades, in tune with changes in the societal preferences. For the ladies, the gold and diamond seem to get "richer" in looks, and so does the Silk saree, which has shorted mostly to six yards now. For the men, those symbolisms of religion ( Vibhuti, Naamam et al) have all but vanished from the forehead. A half-beard, to compete with the latest film hero, is in. Shirts have given way to Silk kurtas, though the Dhoti has largely remained. Quite often, the kurtas compete in glamour with those of the music band that leads a marriage procession! Clearly, religion is passe' , and haute couture is in.
But time has not only touched upon the musician's exterior. His content has undergone huge changes too. Rather than sticking to the songs of the famed "Musical Trinity" , musicians are unafraid of dishing out hitherto unknown and unsung songs of composers in the vernacular languages. So a Tallapakka Annamacharya or a Muthuthaandavar today jostles for lung space as much as a Shyama Shastri or a Dikshithar, though, by and large, the instrumentalists prefer to "play" it safe, with "known" fare, for obvious reasons. After all, you don't want the listener to grope in the dimly lit Sabhas on what song is being dished out.
But more! Today's musician, on the average, is suave, well-travelled and rather well-heeled. Unlike many of the musicians of yore, today's musician is well educated, in the conventional sense. Because he gets to see the world, literally and figuratively, his thought process has undergone a tectonic shift, too. Sometimes, you even see the odd musician fancying himself as a "liberal". He is not shy to discuss his favourite brand of Scotch in public. That would have been nothing short of a disaster, not so long so, when the norm used to be slip to the back-stage and quietly gulp that peg rather surreptitiously. Today, the musicians clearly are at ease, discussing social topics, from LGBT to caste to politics to Cricket, and, on to films. And I personally am able to FEEL the reflection of the musician's thought process, on the performance on stage. While tradition is still being stuck to, by and large, innovation, and even invention on stage, are increasingly taking a bigger share of the pie.
Is this all good for Carnatic Music? Well, I leave that to you to decide.