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Carnatic musicians boycott Madras Academy event over Award to TM Krishna

Source: ANI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: March 21, 2024 15:35 IST
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Several Carnatic musicians have pulled out of Madras Music Academy's annual December conference to protest the Sangita Kalanidhi award to classical vocalist T M Krishna, who they allege has 'glorified Periyar' and vilified the Carnatic music community.

IMAGE: Classical vocalist T M Krishna. Photograph: ANI Photo

The artistes are miffed with the Chennai-based academy's decision to bestow the honour, which is considered the Oscar equivalent in Carnatic music, on the 48-year-old vocalist.

Krishna will preside over the 98th annual conference and concerts of the Madras Music Academy later this year in December.

The sibling duo of Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan, otherwise known as the Trichur Brothers said participating in the year-end festival conference hosted by the Academy will make them 'outright hypocrites in our own eyes'.


They took to social media platform X to write, 'Formal announcement that we are pulling out of the Annual Conference 2024 of The Music Academy , Madras, for obvious reasons. To participate in a conference presided by Mr TM Krishna would make us outright hypocrites in our own eyes. Sincerely, Trichur Brothers.'

On Wednesday, renowned Indian classical musicians Ranjani and Gayatri announcing the decision stated that their participation in this year's conference under T M Krishna's presidency would constitute a 'moral violation'.

They accused Krishna of causing 'immense damage' to the Carnatic music world by 'wilfully and happily' stomping over the sentiments of the community and said he 'insulted most respected icons like Tyagaraja and M S Subbulakshmi'.

Musician and composer Chitravina Ravikiran also expressed his discontent over the decision and mentioned, 'RETURNING SANGITA KALANIDHI AWARD from ACADEMY: I've taken this step after careful consideration as principles much larger than all of us are at stake. However I'll always remain deeply grateful to the org for its role in my career from childhood #musicacademy #award #Music.'

Vedic Speaker and writer Dushyanth Sridhar said that he won't be performing at the academy's upcoming music festival in protest.

He mentioned, '#Astikas - I have conveyed to the Madras Music Academy that I will not be performing on the 1st January 2025 (after the sadas). Below is a copy of the letter drafted to them.'

'I have no authority to question the selection of his name for the award. I am pained by many of his public statements on Dharma, Ayodhya, Sri Rama, and more,' he wrote

He also attached a copy of the letter he wrote to the president of the Music Academy outlining his ideological disagreements with Krishna as well as his reasons for declining to perform.

Historian Vikram Sampath supported the move by the renowned Carnatic musicians and vocalists like Vishakha Hari, Dushyanth Sridhar, Trichur Brothers among others.

He mentioned in his post, 'A big shoutout to the immense courage of conviction showed by artists like @ranjanigayatri @dushyanthsridar @TrichurBrothers Vishakha Hari & most of all @ravikiranmusic 's bold step of returning the Sangitha Kalanidhi award in the wake of @musicacademyma's foolish, suicidal & self-serving move. A quiet revolution brews & hope other Carnatic musicians who revere the composers & our Gods join ranks to demonstrate how some things are simply non-negotiable!'

Musicians Ranjani and Gayatri have alleged that Krishna's actions have 'tried to spread a sense of shame in being a Carnatic musician' and has been exhibited through his 'consistent denigration of spirituality in music'.

They also accused him of vilifying the Carnatic music fraternity that has collectively contributed millions of hours of artistry, hard work and literature.

'It's dangerous to overlook Mr TM Krishna's glorification of a figure like EVR who 1. Openly proposed a genocide of 'brahmins' 2. Repeatedly called/abused every woman of this community with vile profanity 3. Relentlessly worked to normalize filthy language in social discourse,' they posted on X.

'We believe in a value system that respects art and artists, vaggeyakaras, rasikas, institutions, our roots and culture. We will be in moral violation if we were to bury these values and join this year's conference,' the musicians added.

Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy (EVR) also known as Periyar is considered to be the 'Father of the Dravidian movement'. He rebelled against Brahmin dominance and gender and caste inequality in Tamil Nadu.

The Madras Music Academy on Thursday lashed out at the "unwarranted and slanderous assertions and insinuations" by Carnatic music vocalists Ranjani and Gayatri and their "vicious tone" against senior fellow-musician T M Krishna.

N Murali, the president of the academy, in a letter to Ranjani and Gayatri said, "I received your joint letter of 20th March, 2024, and was shocked by both its vituperative content, which is replete with unwarranted and slanderous assertions and insinuations verging on defamation, and its vicious tone against a respected senior fellow-musician."

In his letter, Murali said, "You are aware that the Sangita Kalanidhi award instituted by The Music Academy in 1942 is the highest accolade in Carnatic music. The choice of Sangita Kalanidhi made year after year is a prerogative of The Music Academy and has always been made after careful deliberation, with the sole criterion being musical excellence demonstrated over a significant and sustained career.

"This year the executive committee of the academy chose TM Krishna for this accolade based on his excellence in music over a long career, with no extraneous factors influencing our choice," Murali said.

He said that that the music academy respects the decision of RAnjani and Gayatri but said that posting their letter addressing him and the academy on social media was "discourteous."

"We regard your decision to withdraw from the upcoming annual conference because the Academy has chosen for the award a musician you dislike and malign as unbecoming of artistes and in poor taste. I note that you have shared your letter addressed to me and the Academy on the social media, which apart from being discourteous, raises doubts about the intentions behind and the purpose of your letter," Murali wrote.

"Normally, a missive of the kind you have addressed to me and the Academy posted on the social media before you have received a reply would not warrant a response. But I would not like to deny you the courtesy of a response in consideration of your contributions to the field of Carnatic music," he said.

TM Krishna thanked the Music Academy and termed it 'special' moment.

He wrote in a social media post on X, 'I am happy that The Music Academy, Madras is honouring me with the title Sangita Kalanidhi, for the year 2024. It is without doubt the highest honour for Karnatik musicians. At this moment I thank my family, my Gurus and co-musicians for their selfless giving.'

Krishna has often spoken out against conventional ideas of caste and gender politics in the existing Carnatic music system and also been vocal about the non inclusiveness of the famed December music season in Chennai, also known as the Marghazi season.

He had also started a music festival in the fishing village of Uroor-Olcott Kupppam.

An economics graduate, Krishna was a musical prodigy who started learning music from Bhagavathula Seetharama Sharma, followed by lessons from Carnatic vocalist Chingleput Ranganathan and Semmangudi Srinivas.

Krishna is the grandnephew of former Indian finance minister T T Krishnamachari, who is among the founders of the Madras Music Academy.

According to a press release of the Music Academy, the Sangita Kalanidhi awardee will preside over the academic sessions of the 98th Annual Conference and Concerts of The Music Academy to be held between December 15, 2024 and January 1, 2025.

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Source: ANI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
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