Chennai: The #MeToo movement has hit the Margazhi music season too. Seven artistes, some of whom are very well-known, have been dropped by the Music Academy from the forthcoming season, which is the highlight of the world's largest fine arts festival. Descriptions of sexual harassment by musicians in their training sessions with young artistes had been doing the rounds for a while since #MeToo gathered momentum and the Music Academy decided to act in order to uphold the credibility of the prestigious guardian and promoter of classical music and dance.
The seven musicians dropped from the season known as Margazhi (after the Tamil month) or December season are: N Ravikiran, OS Thyagarajan, Mannargudi A Easwaran, Srimushnam V Raja Rao, Nagai Sriram, R Ramesh and Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan. The list is topped by Chitravina Ravikiran who was the recipient of the Sangeetha Kalanidhi, the Academy's highest honour, just last year. Many young Carnatic musicians had come together to sign a requisition calling for creating a safer environment within the Carnatic community. The academy action is seen as a natural corollary.
“We had finalised the December programme as early as April and May. But, as the #MeToo storm gathered we could not be oblivious of what is happening around us. We have to be sensitive and sympathetic to the plight of the women who have found their voice. They have begun to articulate their positions despite the pain and we have to show our solidarity with them,” says Mr N. Murali, President, Music Academy.
“The credibility of the Academy was at stake. We did not go about this wildly or merely by the accusations. We spoke to unbiased people to gather information about artistes' behaviour even if they could have had no knowledge of the specific charges being made against individual artistes and so could not corroborate what is being said. We went through the detailed descriptive put out by those making the charges to decide on case by case basis,” Mr Murali explained.
“It is not for us to take a stand on what is legal and due process in this. But no musician has a right to be featured in the Academy and we are not infringing on anyone's rights. We are using the same yardstick against the eminent performers as well as those who are not so well-known,” he continued.
Mr Murali also stressed that they were not judging the performers by their action in excluding them from the music season. “We think the charges against these seven performers are credible.” Considering the whispers and the louder jabber on the social media, a defining moment had come for the citadel of music and dance too, particularly as its Margazhi season has a global reach wtih immense NRI and foreign followers.
The presence of a huge number of acolytes in the guru-sishya system of training in the classical arts may have led to this power differential, which some of these artistes may have misused. The movement gathered steam with the support of stalwarts like TM Krishna and Bombay Jayashri....