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HomeNews ReportsRicky Kej condemns Madras Music Academy chief's response to Ranjani-Gayatri: N Ravikiran, Vishakha Hari,...

Ricky Kej condemns Madras Music Academy chief’s response to Ranjani-Gayatri: N Ravikiran, Vishakha Hari, Trichur Brothers and many more speak up against TM Krishna 

Many stalwarts of Carnatic music scene, including Ranjani-Gayatri, Trichur Brothers, Chitravina Ravikiran, Vishakha Hari have spoken up against TM Krishna and the Sangita Kalanidhi award given to him.

On Thursday (22nd March), three-time Grammy Award winner Indian music composer Ricky Kej condemned the attacking letter written by N Murali – the chief of the Madras Music Academy – to Carnatic musician sisters Ranjani and Gayatri. Earlier on 21st March, Ranjani and Gayatri withdrew from participating in the Music Academy’s conference 2024 and from presenting citing that the conference would be presided over by a Periyarite TM Krishna.

Ricky Kej wrote in an X post, “I am absolutely no one to judge right and wrong, or who is deserving of the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award. I deeply admire everyone involved, and everyone who have won or close to winning. But, I cannot deny that this letter reeks of arrogance, hatred and superiority. It hurts especially when directed against such amazing souls like Ranjani and Gayatri. I personally feel this letter is quite unbecoming of such a prestigious art institution.”

What did the chief of the Madras Music Academy write in his letter?

Ricky Kej also attached the letter written by N Murali. In this letter, N Murali said, “Dear Ms Ranjani and Ms Gayatri, I received your joint letter of 20th, March, 2024 and was shocked by both its vituperative content, which is replete with unwarranted and slanderous assertions and insinuations verging on defamation, and its vicious tone against a respected senior fellow-musician.”

He added, “You are aware that the Sangita Kalanidhi award instituted by The Music Academy in 1942 is the highest accolade in Carnatic music. The choice of Sangita Kalanidhi made year after year is a prerogative of The Music Academy and has always been made after careful deliberation, with the sole criterion being musical excellence demonstrated over a significant and sustained career. This year the Executive Committee of the Academy chose T.M. Krishna for this accolade based on his excellence in music over a long career, with no extraneous factors influencing our choice.”

N Murali further said in this letter, “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, the social media, which apart from being discourteous, raises doubts about the intentions behind and the purpose of your letter.”

The chief of the Madras Music Academy concluded his letter by saying, “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.”

What was the stand of sisters Ranjani and Gayatri?

On 21st March, Ranjini and Gayatri posted on their social media handles, “We have communicated our decision to withdraw from participating in the Music Academy’s conference 2024 and from presenting our concert on 25th December. We have made this decision as the conference would be presided over by Mr TM Krishna.

“It’s dangerous to overlook Mr TM Krishna’s glorification of a figure like EVR who 1. Openly proposed a genocide of ‘brahmins’ 2. Repeatedly called/abused every woman of this community with vile profanity 3. Relentlessly worked to normalize filthy language in social discourse,” they posted on X, adding that TM Krishna has, over the years, “tried to spread a sense of shame in being a carnatic musician” and that has been exhibited through his “consistent denigration of spirituality in music.”

Who else is withdrawing from this event at the Music Academy Madras?

Renowned Carnatic musicians Trichur brothers have also withdrawn from the event. In a Facebook post, they wrote, “Formal announcement that we are pulling out of the Annual Conference 2024 of The Music Academy, Madras, for obvious reasons. “Mr TM Krishna believes in and propagates a value system that is diametrically opposite to our core values! We owe it to our Upbringing, Gurus, Rasikas, Family, Wellwishers and Students to stand up for what we believe in. Therefore to participate in a conference presided over by Mr. TM Krishna would make us outright hypocrites in our own eyes.”

Vedic speaker and writer Dushyanth Sridhar also wrote a letter to the president of the Music Academy Madras to communicate that he is withdrawing from the program. He wrote in his Facebook post, “Astikas, I have conveyed to the Madras Music Academy that I will not be performing on the 1st January 2025 (after the sadas). Below is a copy of the letter drafted to them.”

Apart from these names, many other stalwarts of the Carnatic music scene have spoken up against TM Krishna and the Music Academy’s mainstreaming of his ideologies.

Popular vocalist and Harikatha singer Visakha Hari has spoken against the Sangita Kalanidhi award given to TM Krishna. Composer Chitravina Ravikiran has declared that he is returning his Sangita Kalanidhi award from 2017 to mark his objection against TM Krishna and the Music Academy’s attempts to participate in promoting TM Krishna’s ideology.

Though Ravikiran did not name TM Krishna directly, he wrote, “My decision stems from my inability to relate to the kind of values the academy is trying to glorify today, by honouring an individual who has stridently tried to polarize and destabilize Indian classical music and dance fields and the country as a whole along caste and communal lines through misinformation, malleable truths and unprovoked attacks against certain groups of people.”

Who is TM Krishna?

TM Krishna, full name Thodur Madabusi Krishna, is an Indian Carnatic vocalist, author, and self-styled liberal social activist. Born on 22nd January 1976, in Chennai, India, Krishna has gained widespread recognition for his excellence in Carnatic music, a classical music tradition of India.

Apart from his musical pursuits, TM Krishna is also known for his self-styled social activism and advocacy for various causes which he considers attention-worthy. This includes caste issues, gender equality, and the democratisation of the arts. In the guise of addressing these issues, he had been a vocal critic of Hinduism and a staunch supporter of the Periyarite thoughts. In his attempt to be vocal about the need to break down barriers in classical music and make it more accessible to people from all backgrounds, he often resorted to making various statements against particular castes and communities especially the Brahmins by quoting EVR Periyar. Krishna has received numerous awards and honours for his contributions to music and society, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016 for “ensuring social inclusiveness in culture.”

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