Ranjani-Gayatri’s Resolute Stand: A Defiant Challenge to Casteism in Carnatic Music

In the intricate world of Carnatic music, where tradition meets innovation, harmony intertwines with discord, and melody dances with rhythm, there exists a subtle yet persistent undercurrent of casteism. Recently, this undercurrent surged to the forefront of the conversation, propelled by the bold voices of renowned Carnatic musician sisters, Ranjani-Gayatri.

At the heart of the controversy lies a series of exchanges between Ranjani-Gayatri and the Madras Music Academy President, N Murali. It all began when the duo withdrew from the Music Academy conference, slated to be presided over by TM Krishna, citing concerns over his alleged glorification of Periyar and vilification of the Carnatic music community.

In response, N Murali penned a letter, which Ranjani-Gayatri swiftly rebutted with a scathing retort. They lambasted Murali for what they perceived as his alignment with TM Krishna, accusing him of acting more like a spokesperson for the controversial awardee than a senior official of the Music Academy.

The crux of Ranjani-Gayatri’s argument lies in their call for diversity and inclusion within the Music Academy’s management. They boldly asserted that the senior management of the Academy is predominantly comprised of Brahmins and Royals, urging Murali and the Executive Committee to step down and pave the way for non-Brahmins.

But their stand goes beyond mere rhetoric. Ranjani-Gayatri clarified that their decision to withdraw from the conference was not an attempt to challenge the Academy’s authority but rather a conscious choice to distance themselves from what they deemed as “apologists for genocide mongers and filthy discourse.”

In their letter, they also took aim at N Ram of The Hindu, accusing him of perpetuating a smear campaign against them. Refusing to be silenced by baseless accusations, Ranjani-Gayatri called for accountability and leadership by example, urging the Music Academy to go beyond lip service and actively promote diversity in its ranks.

Their unwavering stance against casteism and discrimination in the Carnatic music community serves as a clarion call for change. It challenges entrenched hierarchies and demands a reckoning with the deep-seated biases that continue to pervade cultural institutions.

As we reflect on Ranjani-Gayatri’s courageous stand, let us not merely applaud their words but also heed their call to action. Let us strive to create a more inclusive and equitable environment in the world of Indian classical music, where talent knows no caste and melody transcends barriers. For only then can the true beauty of Carnatic music be fully realized, resonating with the harmonious symphony of diversity.


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