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Madras Music Academy: The dark history of how arts has been used to cover up misconducts of various hues

TM Krishna's narrative closely follows in the footsteps of Periyar's destructive ideology, as was pointed by Carnatic singers Ranjani and Gayatri

Great Indian percussionist and Ghatam player Padma Bhushan Vikku Vinayakram’s Divine appearance clubbed with his passionate and unmatchable performance towers over TM Krishna’s shallowness and Himalayan arrogance. I have always wondered why a Tripund-donning maestro like himself would share a stage with the likes of TM Krishna who insults the very Hindu values that award-winning Vikku Vinayakram wears on his sleeve and guides his art.

However, things appear to be changing. On Thursday, 21st March, renowned Indian classical musicians Ranjani and Gayatri withdrew from the Madras Music Academy Awards 2024 objecting to the Presidency of controversial Carnatic singer TM Krishna, who is known for his hateful aversion to Hinduism.

They said that participating in this year’s conference under TM Krishna’s presidency would constitute a “moral violation.” They accused Krishna of causing “immense damage” to the Carnatic music world.

They accused TM Krishna of insulting the most respected icons like Tyagaraja and MS Subbulakshmi. The musicians further alleged that Krishna’s actions have “tried to spread a sense of shame in being a carnatic musician” and has been exhibited through his “consistent denigration of spirituality in music.”

They also called out TM Krishna’s “glorification of a figure like EVR Periyar 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.

Along with Ranjani and Gayatri, Vedic scholar Dushyanth Sridhar, Carnatic musicians Trichur Brothers, Carnatic vocalist Vishakha Hari and composer Chitravina Ravikiran, who has also returned his Sangita Kalanidhi Award.

“My decision stems from my inability to relate to the kind of values that the Academy is glorifying today, by honouring an individual who has stridently tried to polarise and destabilise 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,” Ravikiran wrote in a long letter.

Narthaki, a global web portal for dancers run by Bharatanatyam dancer Anita Ratnam, shared on Instagram and Facebook a post that read, “We have withdrawn from the from 2024 Music Conference of Music Academy Madras” captioned with the text, “SUBJECT: MUSIC ACADEMY AWARD TO TM KRISHNA. Received this from celebrated Carnatic musicians RANJANI and GAYATRI. SHARING AS RECEIVED.” This caption was followed by the verbatim statement issued by Ranjani and Gayatri withdrawing from the Academy.

Screenshot of the same post by Narthaki on Facebook which was also shared on Instagram but later deleted from the latter
Screenshot of the caption to the post shared by Narthaki on Facebook which was also shared on Instagram but later deleted from the latter.

However, Narthaki later deleted their post from Instagram stating that Ranjani and Gayatri’s stand is “not their stand on the issue”. Having announced that they have withdrawn, Anita Ratnam’s dance platform later deleted the post but only from Instagram and not from Facebook.

Narthaki put out a clarification after deleting their original post sharing Ranjani and Gayatri’s statement
Narthaki put out a clarification after deleting their original post sharing Ranjani and Gayatri’s statement

They then put out a statement on Instagram saying, “We shared the Facebook post of Carnatic Musicians Ranjani and Gayatri. It was their post that we shared. It was not our stand on the issue. NARTHAKI is a prominent dance portal that is not affiliated to any sabha, cultural organisation or political party. We will carry every side of an issue that interests and impacts the performing arts of India.”

Post that was later deleted by Narthaki on Instagram

TM Krishna conferred with Sangita Kalanidhi title

On 17th March, the Madras Music Academy announced the Sangita Kalanidhi Award to TM Krishna drawing ire from Hindu voices within the Indian classical dance and music fraternity as well as from the connoisseurs of the arts.

This comes in the backdrop of TM Krishna’s comments against Hindu art forms, and repeated insults to the Hindu spirituality which is the basis of Indian art and culture. The so-called Carnatic vocalist has made several controversial remarks against the very art he practices.

TM Krishna has closely worked with Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who has misrepresented Hindu temple festivals of yore in order to cast aspersions on the character of Indian men and women.

On Diwali last year, TM Krishna took to X to express his support for Palestinians saying that he found it difficult to celebrate the festival of lights at such a time.

“Difficult to celebrate the festival of lights when for people of Palestine lights indicate incoming death. Support for the Palestinians is support for all those who have been marginalised. In prayer for peace and a return of humanity,”

“Support for the Palestinians is support for all those who have been marginalised,” he wrote along with a photo of himself.

In an op-ed on 14th January 2024, TM Krishna trained guns at Infosys founder N Narayan Murthy and Sudha Murthy for endorsing longer work hours by likening their views to “Brahminism” followed by an unending rant.

In another casteist op-ed on 11th February 2024, he began by writing that the Indian classical dance form Bharatanatyam has been appropriated by Brahmins leading to its alteration and erosion.

TM Krishna, despite being a Carnatic vocalist himself, has said that Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam are not superior to other art forms. “Carnatic music is just like gaana, cinema music, or rock and roll,” he said in an interview in January.

In 2022, he performed in an event marking the Gujarat riots titled “Gujarat 2002-2002. Memories of Struggle.” He performed an “Urdu bhajan” at the event.

In an atrocious and misleading op-ed in September 2020, TM Krishna declared that Guru-Shishya parampara in Indian arts is abusive and should be abolished. He used the case of sexual abuse allegations against the Gundecha brothers to demonise the entire tenet of Guru-Shishya tradition which has given India great artists and performers.

Unfortunately for the connoisseurs, despite getting an opportunity himself, TM Krishna has believed that Carnatic music industry differentiates and is controlled by the “upper caste”. To that effect, on 24th November, 2017, he said that MS Subbulakshmi was celebrated only because of her upper caste.

He had said, “Earlier in her career, Subbulakshmi’s music had incredible freeness in spirit but later it was imbued with a certain sorrow that was mesmerising in itself. Her music was what it was because of the sorrow in her.”

Again in May 2022, TM Krishna gave an unsolicited statement about Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with a foreign woman at a nightclub in Nepal which had sparked widespread criticism. On this, TM Krishna said that Indians are “racists”.

“To me, it is irrelevant whether the lady at the pub was a Chinese diplomat. But what is obvious is that, to Indians, Chinese, Nepalis, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, even people from Nagaland or Meghalaya are all the same. I will not use the commonly used slur! We are RACISTS,” he tweeted.

His address, while receiving the Magsaysay Award in 2016 became The Wire’s headline wherein he stripped the Indian from Indian classical music and openly insulted Hindus.

In 2018, irked by the outrage from Hindu connoisseurs of the arts for performing Christian hymns in Carnatic, TM Krishna vowed that he would sing one song on Allah and Jesus every month.

TM Krishna, a Leftist Periyarite

Ranjani and Gayatri’s letter mentioned that TM Krishna glorifies EVR Periyar, a Dravidian Hinduphobe.

“Its 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 wrote on X.

TM Krishna’s narrative closely follows in the footsteps of Periyar’s destructive ideology. Right from Brahmin hate and related discourse, Periyar’s toxic ideology has been weaponised by the left to try and finish traditional Hindu values.

In March 2023, TM Krishna released a song in honour of Periyar to commemorate 100 years of his “anti-caste” movement. The post shared by TM Krishna was reshared by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin as well.

Periyar believed that marriage and pregnancy were upper-caste concepts to enslave men and women. He promoted ideas of promiscuity. As per reports, he too married his adopted daughter Maniammai, who was 38 years younger to him.

In 2018, Tamil singer Chimnayi Sripaada accused Periyarite poet Vairamuthu of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement and was effectively banned by the Tamil music industry. Although notably, Sripaada herself keeps making anti-Hindu remarks.

Hindu voices have been gradually rising against TM Krishna

From seniors in the Indian arts fraternity to new talent, the spiritually inclined artists and performers have seen through TM Krishna’s facade in the name of creativity and reform.

Perturbed by the Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha on 22nd January 2024, TM Krishna wrote a long venomous lecture titled “Heartless Devotion” in The Telegraph. “I am writing this piece on a day when many in my country are hailing the return of Rama to Ayodhya. In making such a claim, falsities are being dubbed as historical,” he wrote in the beginning.

On the same day, renowned Veena player Ramana Balachandran put out a statement gracefully calling out TM Krishna. “I don’t know enough to understand if I am Left, Right or Center, but your description of a Rama temple supporter definitely doesn’t represent my experience and hence this response,” he wrote.

“Hinduism is the only religion where obeisance paid to a deity is also viewed as obeisance to truth, an energy form, the ultimate indivisible consciousness or divinity, and not just to a godhead. In the context of Modi ji’s speech, Ram is righteousness, truth, valour, strength, consciousness, and all that. It’s naive of you to perceive this as being against minorities,” Balachandra wrote in a telling retort.

In 2018, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) postponed TM Krishna’s concert over rising anger towards his statement that he would perform songs on Allah and Jesus. Following the outrage, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to TM Krishna’s rescue to organise his event.

The Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in US’s Maryland too had cancelled TM Krishna’s over this controversy.

In January 2020, the Chennai-based Kalakshetra Foundation withdrew permission to conduct TM Krishna’s book launch event saying, “Kalakshetra Foundation is an autonomous body under Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Being a Government organisation, it cannot allow any program that may instigate political, cultural and social disharmony.”

This came after an excerpt titled “Keeping the cow and brahmin apart” from his book was published in The Hindu. Two years later allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against a teacher in the Kalakshetra Foundation, which TM Krishna capitalised on.

Back then too, it was N Murali, President of the Madras Music Academy, who put his weight behind TM Krishna despite the latter’s threat to sing Abrahamic hymns. N Murali is the Director of The Hindu Group which runs the leftist newspaper The Hindu. All in all, the political Left has systematically had a hold over the Indian arts scene carefully placing its stooges to empty dance and music of all Hindu values.

The Hindu is TM Krishna’s medium for releasing his pseudo-intellectual frustrations. The publication allows him to rip apart the divinity from Indian classical music and dance. Albeit, real artists are speaking up now and Indian artists pursuing the divine truth will free their art from the suffocating grip of the Left.

Leftists like TM Krishna want a traditionless India

Indian classical artists and connoisseurs of the arts understand that Bharatiya art always meant to bring one close to Parmatma or Bhagwan, to put it briefly. The means to this end is to internalise Indian values, traditions for which insitutions like marriage, gurukuls, family et cetera have been built. Indian classical art forms upheld these very institutions, reminding us how they are the path to self-realisation.

Were this to materialise, Communism would meet the most painful death. So Leftists politicians and their mediocre stooges in arts planted themselves and presented words like reforms, freedom and equality separatly from the Indian culture, as if these values were lacking in our creative practices.

Unquestioned vulgar interpretations and representations of Ram and Sita, Radha and Krishna, Krishna and Gopis, Devis, Shakti, Shiva and Parvati, Shiva Lingam, and every Hindu deity and symbol has been done in the name of artistic freedom motivated by the Left.

No wonder that marriage as a sacred institution is peddled as a patriarchal and Brahminical concept by the coterie and promiscuity is promoted as freedom. Pregnancy and child birth that build families are demonised as anti-women by the ecosystem to make abortion and prostitution an accepted norm in the name of women’s rights.

Similarly, breaking long-held traditions in Indian classical dance and music is peddled as reform for equality by the likes of TM Krishna. Myriad of examples can be listed but any number of words would fall short to describe this fatal corruption.

A significant amount of culture has already been lost in these past decades given the course of India’s troubled history. But in refusing to let TM Krishna and N Murali pull the strings, Ranjani and Gayatri and all such devotional Hindu artists have perhaps preserved whatever little is left of the Indian classical arts.

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Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

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