Carnatic Music Controversy: Ranjani and Gayatri Withdraw from Music Academy Conference

The world of Carnatic music finds itself embroiled in controversy as Carnatic musician sisters Ranjani and Gayatri announce their withdrawal from the Music Academy’s conference 2024. The decision comes amidst a storm of criticism and debate surrounding the selection of T.M. Krishna as the recipient of the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award.

The spark that ignited the controversy was a letter penned by N Murali, the chief of the Madras Music Academy, to Ranjani and Gayatri. In his letter, Murali defended the Academy’s choice of T.M. Krishna for the Sangita Kalanidhi award, citing musical excellence as the sole criterion for selection. He condemned the sisters’ decision to withdraw from the conference, labeling it as “unbecoming of artistes” and “in poor taste.”

Ricky Kej, a three-time Grammy Award winner and Indian music composer, joined the fray, condemning Murali’s letter as “arrogant, hateful, and superior.” Kej highlighted the hurt caused by the letter, particularly when directed towards esteemed musicians like Ranjani and Gayatri. He expressed his disappointment in the Madras Music Academy, labeling the letter as unbecoming of such a prestigious institution.

In response, Ranjani and Gayatri took to social media to announce their decision to withdraw from the Music Academy’s conference. Their post cited their disagreement with the Academy’s choice of T.M. Krishna as the reason behind their withdrawal. The sisters’ decision underscores the deep-seated divisions within the Carnatic music community regarding the recognition of artists and the role of institutions in shaping the cultural landscape.

The controversy surrounding the Sangita Kalanidhi award reflects larger debates within the realm of Carnatic music, including questions of tradition, innovation, and inclusivity. While some applaud the Academy’s decision to honor T.M. Krishna for his contributions to the genre, others criticize it as a departure from established norms and values.

As Ranjani and Gayatri stand firm in their stance against the Music Academy’s decision, the broader conversation about the future direction of Carnatic music continues to unfold. The controversy serves as a poignant reminder of the complex interplay between tradition and progress, and the role of artists in shaping the cultural narrative.

In the midst of this heated debate, one thing remains clear: the enduring passion and dedication of musicians like Ranjani and Gayatri to their art form, and their unwavering commitment to upholding its integrity and values. As the Carnatic music community grapples with these challenging issues, the voices of artists like Ranjani and Gayatri serve as beacons of authenticity and artistic integrity in an ever-evolving landscape.


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