Attacks on artistic freedom flayed

Attacks on artistic freedom flayed

T M Krishna

Eminent persons from all walks of life have released a statement in protest against the attacks on South Indian musicians for performing interfaith music at classical music concerts.

The statement has been endorsed by over 180 people concerned by these developments, including artists and performers, former judges and bureaucrats, academicians, social activists, public intellectuals, journalists and other concerned citizens.

The statement condemns the condemns the continual harassment and intimidation to silence voices. Highlighting the failure of the rule of law and constitutional guarantees, the statement voices disappointment that neither independent institutions such as the courts nor the governments stepped in to take decisive steps.

Environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, one of the signatories to the statement, says “People should stop dictating others. Where and what to sing is a matter of personal choice. Carnatic music, or any genre of music, does not belong to any single person. It is a public realm and people from all walks of life are welcome to embrace it.”

Kannada writer and film director Girish Karnad, who seems to be taking extending his irritation with the manufactured controversy to people who call to ask him about the issue, says, “There’s nothing to talk about. This is very wrong. Singers can sing whatever they want.” Karnad is also a signatory to the statement.

Hindustani vocalist Nandakumar Kurudi says, “Carnatic singers performing Christian hymns is a new experiment and I’m not against it as a musician. But Carnatic music, since ages, has been about Hindu culture and philosophy. The lyrics and pronunciation matter a lot and changing the lyrics to suit the preference of a particular religion might make the song lose its essence. But I feel this experiment has to be done. We’ll know how it will work over a period of time.”

What happened

It all started more than a month ago when Carnatic musician O S Arun received threats and criticism for agreeing to sing at an event in Chennai titled ‘Yesuvin Sangama Sangeetham’ conceptualised by T Samuel Joseph. Arun was asked to render Carnatic compositions on Christ but he was attacked online and he cancelled citing personal reasons. Within days, WhatsApp and social media clippings of Nithyasree Mahadevan rendering a Christian song began circulating with disapproving comments.

Later, the SSVT Temple in Washington DC cancelled an invitation to T M Krishna to sing.

Later, Krishna in a statement said, “Considering the vile comments and threats issued by many on social media regarding Carnatic compositions on Jesus, I announce here that I will be releasing one Carnatic song every month on Jesus or Allah.”

Who signed the statement

Some of the names include T M Krishna, activists like Romila Thapar, Anand Teltumbde, Kamla Bhasin, Shabnam Hasmi and Teesta Setalvad, historian Ramachandra Guha, classical
dancers Leela Samson and Mallika Sarabhai, IAS officer Devasahayam MG, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan,
writers Satish Deshpande and Perumal Murugan and advocates Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan.


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