Will Kalakshetra ban playing Mrdangam? asks T M Krishna

Last Updated 30 January 2020, 14:46 IST

References to cow skin being used in musical instruments like Mrdangam in a book written by eminent Carnatic singer T M Krishna seems to have irked the famed Kalakshetra Foundation here which on Thursday withdrew permission to hold the book launch at its premises.

Sebastian and Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers written by Krishna, the outspoken singer who took Carnatic music out of the sabhas to the streets of Chennai and to near-by fishing hamlets, was scheduled to be released at the Rukmini Arangam in Kalakshetra Foundation on February 2.

With just three days to go for the book launch, Kalakshetra Foundation, an autonomous organisation under the Union Ministry of Culture, dashed off a letter to publishers of the book, Westland Publications Pvt. Ltd, informing them that the permission granted for the launch has been withdrawn.

“Being a Government organisation, it cannot allow any programme that may instigate political, cultural and social disharmony. The book review which has appeared today contains certain statements relating to the book which touch controversial issues and certainly have lot of political overtones,” Kalakshetra Foundation Director Revathi Ramachandran said in the letter.

The move came hours after excerpts of the book were published in a national English daily.

Taking the revoking of permission in his stride, Krishna told DH that the book that chronicles the history and life of Mrdangam makers who predominantly belong to the Dalit community will be released as per the original schedule -- 6.45 pm on February 2 – at the new venue of Asian College of Journalism.

“Everybody knows instruments like Mrdangam can’t be made without a cow being slaughtered. People who enjoy the sound from a Mrdangam refuse to acknowledge how the instrument is being made. The book has been written to chronicle the life of those unsung heroes who should get the due credit for the sound that comes out of Mrdangam,” Krishna told DH.

Maintaining that he does not understand how stating the obvious amounts to stoking a controversy, Krishna wondered whether the Kalakshetra Foundation will now ban playing of Mrdangam at its auditoriums because it is made of cow skin.

“Is that the next step? Will Kalakshetra ban playing of Mrdangam? Why don’t we accept the truth? The book is dedicated to those people who are masters in the art of making Mrdangams. It is those people who take the cow to a slaughterhouse, clean its flesh and make the instrument out of it? Can anyone deny the fact that cow and goat skin are used in the making of the instrument?” he asked.

Though there was no official word on what led to the withdrawal of the permission, it is understood that the references to a cow was the reason.

In the letter to the publishers of the book, Revathi Ramachandran said the foundation was “unaware” of the controversies at the time of renting of the auditorium. “We, therefore, regret to inform you that we hereby withdraw our permission given for usage of our auditorium for the book release function,” she added.

(Published 30 January 2020, 12:08 IST)

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