Following several disturbing accounts of sexual harassment allegations that surfaced against prominent names in the Carnatic music community over the past couple of weeks, the Madras Music Academy announced its decision to drop seven musicians from their list of performers this December season.
The seven artistes include season regulars like N Ravikiran, OS Thyagarajan, Mannargudi A Easwaran, Srimushnam V Raja Rao, Nagai Sriram, R Ramesh and Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan.
Speaking to TNM, N Murali, the President of the Academy said that their decision was a direct result of the ‘Me Too’ movement. "Our decision is a result of the storm caused by the ‘Me Too’ movement. These are musicians who have been named as alleged sexual harassers. In some cases, a description of harassment has also been given. In addition to this, we have spoken to unbiased members of this industry to arrive at a decision. The seven include Chitravina Ravikiran who is also a recipient of the Sangeetha Kalanidhi award. We saw the allegation against OS Thiagarajan on The News Minute. We realised that as an academy, we need to take a stand on the matter. We can't be oblivious to what is happening around us. I am not saying these people are guilty but we have the right to decide who can perform and who can’t,” he stated.
This move follows several Carnatic musicians standing in solidarity with those who shared their traumatic ‘Me Too’ accounts naming several renowned artists.
Several young Carnatic musicians from across the world came together and signed an open document requesting for the constitution of a body to address such issues and to create a safer environment in the Carnatic community.
Recently popular dancer and actor Swarnamalya Ganesh initiated a public consultation process for the advocacy of redressal in the performing arts. “We will make every sphere of performing arts from private dance schools, sabhas, organizations, government nodal agencies, ministry, artiste, universities accountable. No matter your gender, power, status, age you will never intimidate us anymore. Taking this forward. If the performing artistes want to continue your radio silence, its fine. Coz this battle is fought for you too. Your children will live in a safer space from now on (sic),” she wrote on her Facebook page.
On October 12, one woman who had trained under renowned musician OS Thyagarajan narrated her ordeal to TNM, stating that the singer had molested her on the last day of her classes.
Popular singers like Ranjani and Gayatri, TM Krishna, Sriram Parthasarathy and Bombay Jayashri have also signed a document put forth by young Carnatic musicians from across the world that calls for due process through civil society investigations.
Music Academy’s December festival (Margazhi festival) is one of the country’s most popular annual events that brings patrons from across the globe. The festival promotes South India’s arts and culture with Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam taking the centre stage. This festival was an important factor that enabled Chennai attain its UNESCO’s ‘creative cities network’ status.