TM Krishna
TM Krishna

A slew of controversies erupted after the Madras Music Academy conferred its prestigious title "Sangita Kalanidhi" for 2024 to Carnatic musician TM Krishna. The Sangita Kalanidhi is a prestigious award bestowed annually to an expert in the field of Carnatic music. This honour is one of the highest for Carnatic musicians, musicologists, and dance exponents, recognizing their contributions and service to Indian classical music.

Who is T.M. Krishna?

T.M. Krishna is a well-known Carnatic music vocalist celebrated for blending traditional styles with innovative interpretations. His significant contributions to Carnatic music and societal impact have been recognized with several awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award, emphasizing his role in promoting a more inclusive and socially conscious approach to this classical art form. He also engages in writing and activism, advocating for inclusivity and critical awareness within the music community.

Krishna aims to make Carnatic music inclusive, accessible, and free from religious and political ties, challenging accusations of it being exclusively Brahmin-centric. His goals are noble and justified; however, the perceived sense of moral superiority might alienate some people.

Ironically, the traditional system that viewed the Academy as an elitist stronghold is now criticizing it for honouring T.M. Krishna, labelled by some as a "Communist" and a sympathizer of Periyar. This sentiment was highlighted by musicians Ranjani and Gayatri, who have also boycotted the Academy festival, specifically mentioning the association with Periyar. The traditional community feels betrayed by the Academy for welcoming back Krishna, who had previously boycotted the Madras music season, believing the Academy had always supported their values.

Trichuru brothers Srikrishna Mohan and Ramkumar Mohan have announced that they will boycott this year's festival while Chitravina Ravi Kiran has decided to return the Sangita Kalanidhi Award he won in 2017. Following the controversy, the President of the Music Academy, N Murali, wrote to Ranjani Gayatri in response to their post, saying, "This year, the Executive Committee of the Academy chose TMM Krishna for this accolade based on its excellence in music over a long career, with no extraneous factors influencing our choice."

It is to be noted that the Academy's top honour for a dancer in 2024 was awarded to a Kerala-based artist seen as aligned with the CPM, though this has garnered less attention. Krishna will be conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi Award on 1 January 2025.