The Madras Music Academy row over Sangita Kalanidhi award for singer TM Krishna is getting uglier by the day with no end in sight. After Carnatic musician duo Ranjani and Gayatri protested and withdrew from the Music Academy Conference 2024, the academy wrote a letter criticising their decision. The Vidushi sisters have now hit back at the Music Academy, responding to the letter.

A letter written by N Murali, the chief of Madras Music Academy said that the letter written by the duo informing the Academy about their withdrawal was “replete with unwarranted and slanderous assertions and insinuations verging on defamation, and its vicious tone against a respected senior fellow-musician.” “The Executive Committee of the Academy chose TM Krishna for this accolade based on his excellence in music over a long career, with no extraneous factors influencing our choice,” the letter added.

Also Read | Why TM Krishna’s Sangita Kalanidhi Award Has Upset Carnatic Musicians? Is There a Divide Within Community?

Reacting to letter, Ranjani-Gayatri have yet again taken to social media saying that their letter was written to inform the academy of their decision and not seek any explanation on the award. “The Music Academy Chennai Dear Mr Murali, We thank you for the courtesy of providing a response to our letter dated 20 March 2024.We’d like to clarify that our letter to you was only a notification of our withdrawal without any request for your decisions or actions. We did not post the letter on social media, but merely informed our fans on the same subject. Now we realise, this didn’t help you manage the optics and we are sorry about it. Did we question your prerogative to award anyone? No Did we exercise our prerogative to withdraw? Yes Did we refuse to be implicit apologists for genocide mongers and filthy discourse? Yes,” the two wrote on X.

“With your verbose answer to questions we never raised, you are trying to build a convenient narrative and cast aspersions on us. Your statements to the press in this regard are immoral and dishonest. We were a bit surprised as to why your response reads like a release on behalf of the awardee, erasing the distinction between him and the Music Academy. But it became obvious when Mr. N. Ram, media hegemon, joined as an undeclared spokesperson, with his campaign branding us ‘bigoted, casteist coterie’,” they added.

“We immensely respect this hallowed institution and it will be the happiest day for us and for millions of people to see star performers emerge from underprivileged communities and dominate this stage. We want to see the day when the TTK auditorium is filled up with a diverse inclusive crowd from all communities and religious minorities,” they said.

“This transformation should begin at the top. Kindly start with the entrenched Executive Committee consisting of only brahmins and royalty you have been heading for 2 decades. Unlike serious hardwork and the long journey it takes for artists to excel, this transformation is achievable instantly with a simple resolution and a bunch of resignations. Please consider leading by example, lest the world call it mere lip service and start branding you as a ‘bigoted, casteist coterie’,” Ranjani and Gayatari wrote.

How The Row Erupted

The row erupted in the Madras Music Academy after it honoured TM Krishna with Sangita Kalanidhi award earlier this month. Protesting against the award, Ranjani-Gayatri and Harikatha exponent Dushyanth Sridhar had withdrawn from the Music Academy Conference 2024.

Carnatic vocalist Vidushi sisters Ranjani and Gayatri had said that they will not be performing at their concert on December 25 and won’t participate in the conference to be held from December 15 to January 1.

They accused TM Krishna of causing “immense damage to the Carnatic music world” and “willfully and happily” stomping over the sentiments of the music community. They also alleged that TM Krishna insulted most respected icons like Tyagaraja and MS Subbulakshmi.

“His actions have tried to spread a sense of shame in being a Carnatic musician and have been exhibited through his consistent denigration of spirituality in music,” Ranjani Gayatri wrote in a social media post.

Accusing TM Krishna of vilifying the Carnatic music fraternity, they said, “It is dangerous to overlook Mr TM Krishna’s glorification of a figure like EVR.”

Dushyanth Sridhar, too, refused to perform on January 1, 2025. “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,” he posted on X.

However, singer Chinmayi Sripada had come out in support of TM Krishna. Congratulating him on getting the award, Sripada questioned Ranjani and Gayatri on X and wrote, “I have not seen such an impassioned thread when scores of Carnatic Music students spoke about sexual abuse and harassment by multiple Carnatic Musicians in 2018.”

TM Krishna was honoured with the Sangita Kalanidhi award earlier this week. On March 18, he had posted a thank-you message on social media. He will also preside over the Music Conference 2024.

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