Music Academy prez slams Ranjani-Gayatri for slanderous allegations against TM Krishna

Ranjani-Gayatri had made a public announcement that they will not attend the Music Academy’s annual conference, citing the felicitation of TM Krishna, who is being honoured with the Sangita Kalanidhi award.
Music Academy prez slams Ranjani-Gayatri for slanderous allegations against TM Krishna
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Responding to the decision of Carnatic singers Ranjani and Gayatri to withdraw from the Madras Music Academy’s annual conference owing to the felicitation of singer-activist TM Krishna, Academy president N Murali said that the duo’s statement was “replete with unwarranted and slanderous assertions, and insinuations verging on defamation.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, March 21, Murali said that the remarks made by Ranjani and Gayatri in public against Krishna raised doubts about the intentions behind their withdrawal. 

The controversy began a day earlier after TM Krishna was chosen as the Sangita Kalanidhi award recipient for 2024. Ranjani and Gayatri, in a joint letter published on social media, said that they would not be participating in the Academy’s conference, alleging that Krishna had caused “immense damage” to the Carnatic music world. The singer-duo further attacked Krishna’s political views and slammed him for “glorifying” popular anti-caste leader Periyar, a revolutionary social thinker who led the Dravidian movement.

“It’s dangerous to overlook Mr TM Krishna’s glorification of a figure like EVR who openly proposed a genocide of ‘brahmins’, repeatedly called/abused every woman of this community with vile profanity, relentlessly worked to normalise filthy language in social discourse,” the duo alleged in their statement. They also claimed that Krishna had “spread a sense of shame in being a Carnatic musician through his consistent denigration of spirituality in music.” 

Another person who expressed outrage at TM Krishna is Carnatic instrumentalist Chitravina Ravikiran, a Sangita Kalanidhi recipient himself. Ravaikran was named in the Me Too movement in 2018 by a former student who alleged that he indulged in inappropriate conversations and tried to make sexual advances. Following the accusations, he was removed from Madras Academy for a year but did not return the award then. In his statement, he accused TM Krishna of trying to “destablise and polarise” the classical dance and music community along caste and communal lines by spreading misinformation. He further added that TM Krishna has defamed some of the “greatest architects of this country.”

TM Krishna is a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, Carnatic singer, author, and public intellectual. He wrote a book titled Sebastian and Sons, which explores the history of the Dalits in making the classical percussion instrument mridangam used in Carnatic music. He has been vocal against all forms of social divisions and has been an advocate of using his art to eliminate the practice of caste. He has also been supportive of the survivors of sexual assault who called out several prominent names in the Carnatic music industry during the ‘Me Too’ movement in 2018.

As the issue gained momentum, several people have now questioned the veracity of Ranjani and Gayatri’s defamatory claims. Expressing shock over the words used by the duo against Krishna, Murali said that the choice of the Sangita Kalanidhi award is a prerogative of The Music Academy. 

“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. 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 social media, which apart from being discourteous, raises doubts about the intentions behind and the purpose of your letter,” Murali responded.

He further added, “Normally, a missive of the kind you have addressed to me and the Academy posted on 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.”

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