The Music Academy Controversy: T.M. Krishna’s Selection as Sangita Kalanidhi Sparks Debate

The world of Carnatic music was recently rocked by controversy as The Music Academy found itself embroiled in a heated debate over the selection of vocalist T.M. Krishna as the recipient of this year’s prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award. This decision ignited a firestorm of reactions, both within the music community and on social media platforms.

The spark that ignited the controversy was the vocal duo Ranjani and Gayathri’s public declaration of their intention to boycott The Music Academy’s 2024 conference in protest against Krishna’s selection. Their decision was accompanied by a strongly-worded statement expressing their disapproval of Krishna as the awardee and citing reasons such as his alleged glorification of figures like EVR aka Periyar and his criticism of the Carnatic music fraternity.

In response, The Music Academy’s president, N. Murali, issued a scathing rebuttal, expressing shock at the duo’s decision and condemning the tone and content of their statement. Murali emphasized that the selection of the Sangita Kalanidhi is based solely on musical excellence, with no external influences, and defended Krishna’s credentials for the award.

The controversy quickly spread like wildfire on social media, with various artists, scholars, and enthusiasts joining the fray. Harikatha exponent Dushyanth Sridhar, vocalists Trichur Brothers, and Harikatha exponent Vishaka Hari were among those who publicly announced their decision to boycott the conference in solidarity with Ranjani and Gayathri.

Adding fuel to the fire, former Sangita Kalanidhi recipient Chitravina Ravikiran made waves by announcing his decision to return his award in protest against Krishna’s selection. This bold move sent shockwaves through the Carnatic music community and intensified the debate surrounding the Academy’s decision-making process.

In a surprising twist, the family of the late Palghat Mani, another Sangita Kalanidhi recipient, also joined the dissent by publicly expressing their opposition to Krishna’s selection and announcing their intention to return his award conferred in 1966. This unexpected development further underscored the depth of division within the music community over the issue.

Amidst the growing dissent, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) stepped into the fray, throwing its support behind Krishna and commending The Music Academy for standing by its decision. CPI(M) State secretary K. Balakrishnan praised Krishna for his efforts in addressing caste discrimination and promoting inclusivity in Carnatic music while condemning attempts to suppress alternative opinions.

The controversy surrounding T.M. Krishna’s selection as Sangita Kalanidhi has ignited a broader conversation about artistic freedom, inclusivity, and caste dynamics within the Carnatic music community. As tensions continue to simmer and voices on both sides of the debate grow louder, the future implications of this divisive issue remain uncertain. Only time will tell how The Music Academy and the Carnatic music fraternity at large navigate this complex and contentious terrain.


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