The Controversy Surrounding TM Krishna’s Sangita Kalanidhi Award: A Reflection on Carnatic Music’s Identity Crisis

The recent decision by the Madras Music Academy to honor musician TM Krishna with the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award has sparked intense debate and division within the Carnatic music community. This controversy highlights deeper issues surrounding the identity and direction of Carnatic music in the modern age.

Renowned Carnatic vocalists Ranjani-Gayatri and Harikatha exponent Dushyanth Sridhar’s withdrawal from the Music Academy Conference 2024 in protest against the award reflects the deep-seated concerns within the community. Ranjani-Gayatri’s decision not to perform at their concert on December 25 and abstain from the conference underscores the gravity of the situation.

In their statements, Ranjani-Gayatri accused TM Krishna of undermining the traditions and sentiments of Carnatic music by allegedly disrespecting revered figures such as Tyagaraja and MS Subbulakshmi. They criticized his approach as detrimental to the spiritual essence of Carnatic music, accusing him of spreading a sense of shame among Carnatic musicians.

Moreover, their objections extend beyond personal grievances, as they also denounce TM Krishna’s association with figures like EVR (E.V. Ramasamy), whom they view as antithetical to the values of Carnatic music. This broader critique suggests a clash of ideologies within the community, with diverging views on the role of tradition, spirituality, and social activism in Carnatic music.

Dushyanth Sridhar’s decision to boycott the event further amplifies the dissent, signaling a unified stance against what some perceive as a departure from the core principles of Carnatic music. His refusal to perform on January 1, 2025, emphasizes the ongoing nature of the debate and the need for constructive dialogue to address the underlying issues.

The controversy surrounding TM Krishna’s award raises fundamental questions about the future direction of Carnatic music. Can traditional values coexist with evolving perspectives on social justice and inclusivity? How do artists navigate the tension between preserving heritage and embracing innovation?

As the Carnatic music community grapples with these complex challenges, it must strive for unity amidst diversity, recognizing the richness of its heritage while embracing the possibilities of change. Only through open dialogue and mutual respect can Carnatic music continue to thrive as a vibrant and inclusive art form, honoring its past while embracing its future.


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