Category Archives: Music

Levels of Discriminations dealt in the book “A Southern music: The Karnatik Story”

An exploration through various aspects of music is the focus of the book “A Southern Music: The
Karnatik Story”. TM Krishna, the author goes through various stages, themes, concepts and
perceptions in the music world by holding his beliefs and personal interpretations and criticizes
each of them based on his analysis.

“Reshaping Art”, another book by the same author, came as a continuation to the criticisms he is raising in this book on the four social aspects: religion, language, gender and caste, which he states together constitutes a complex, composite narrative (page number 336). Krishna’s finding in this book is that Carnatic music exists within a social consciousness (page number 335). Therefore, discussing the social structure and their influence on music is elementary in researching music.

The chapter ” The shrine and the song” (page number 294-313) deals with the role of religion in
art music. Here the author defines the meaning of God, divine and religion. The man or artist gets surrendered under God. As a Carnatic musician, Krishna wants to remove the manifestation of religiosity and presence of constructed Godhead. He seeks Bhakti to the aesthetics of the music, not to the names of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Devotion towards the soul of the music is needed, not to the names or images of deities, according to TM Krishna.
Even the sahithya (lyrics) of classical music are full of Gods, Goddesses and their stories. Hindu
mythologies and philosophies are the core of the meanings of the lyrics’ and they work as the basic intention of music classes. Religion always stands as an umbrella so that everything else comes under its shade.

Most of the time singing is considered as devotional offerings, not as the presentation of art music.
The author then poses a relevant question; Is Carnatic music inherently religious?
He provides the answer that Carnatic music is not a single initiative movement or an association, but its journey is purely related to temples only. The musicians are also hailing from conservative families. Therefore, they focus on the deities in the lyrics.
TMK explains that divinity limits the melodic and rhythmic possibilities. When laya comes,
religious content vanishes.
He sees one reason behind the popularity of Saint Thyagaraja’s Harikathas as they were very well known and relatable to the audience. The same reason he finds for the high demand of the Tukkada section in a concert where everyone waits for this particular devotion part to come. Audiences are also up for religious entertainment, more than for musical appreciation. This is a contradiction between devotion and aesthetics.

The chapter “A man’s world” (page no:314-334) deals with gender inequalities in Carnatic music. TMK says, from the early periods itself a male domination is visible in the Karnatic music scenario. The abolition of the Devadasi system in the 20th century has favoured this movement where the highly professional and efficient classical singing Devadasis got erased from the screen. The powerful Brahmin class in Madras took advantage of this new situation. They portrayed it as a duty for them to sanctify the music world. “The brahmin-orchestrated sanctification was considered necessary to rid dance and even music from its devadasi history.”(pg no:316).
The ‘kutcheri’ needed a clean image, therefore devadasis got detained from performing. On the
other hand, brahmins and other high-caste women were also not allowed to perform because this reduced the sanctity of concerts. The result was the complete disappearance of women from the classical music stage.
TMK presents the exceptional women vocalists by appreciating their brave stories such as
of Saraswti Bai, Dhanammal, Bangalore Nagaratnammal, MS Subbulakshmi, DK Pattammal how they resisted all these traditional norms and became the face of classical music concerts.
The reluctance of male accompanists to play for female singers is also a major issue of gender
discrimination that Krishna points out. The male instrumentalists have a mindset that if they play for female artists, it is a matter of being second to a woman which is very shameful for their status.
For this, they find excuses to blame the female singers: females have a high sruthi which is not in accordance with their instrumental pitch; females do not have proper tala because they are weak in mathematics etc.

When it comes to the choice of the female singers, they also most of the time prefer males as their accompanists. Another fact is, among the instrumentalists in this field also, there are fewer female instrumentalists mainly because of some of the perceptions such as that mridangam is a male instrument. These kinds of sexist attitudes in the music sphere can be solved to an extent by making the organizers unbiased and equalitarian in conduction of concerts.

The chapter “An unequal music” (page number 335-360) deals with caste and discrimination in
Karnatic music. It says how caste-oriented and dirty is the music system in the earlier as well as in the current period. The removal of Nagaswara vidwans from the concerts, the denial of the
contribution of Isai vellalar community to the music world are strong examples used by Krishna
to emphasize his arguments. A few non-brahmin vocalists other than Devadasis to quote are
Chittur Subrahmanya Pillai (1898-1975) and Maduari Somasundaram(1919-1989).

Music and Mass Communication

Music has been considered as a form of mass communication since its beginning. Be it face to face or mediated by any mass media, the sender (musician) lets the message (music) reach the receiver (audience) in an effective way.  It satisfies Laswell’s functions of mass communication, as explained herewith:

Taking the case of Carnatic music, we can see how the propagation of this particular music as it streams through mass media platforms, satisfies the three functions of mass communication given by Harold Lasswell (1948): 

  1. Surveillance of the human environment: The media coverage of concerts, initiatives, debates etc,, helps the public to know about what is happening around the Carnatic music sphere as the media delivers the information to the society.
  2. Correspondence with the parts of society in responding to the environment: The information shared and interpreted by the media helps to shape the opinion of society and influences the public perceptions. It is all about the part played by the media in influencing how the audience perceives the event being reported on various media platforms.
  3. Transmission of the cultural heritage from one generation to the next: Media facilitates the transmission and understanding of the cultural heritage which exists in the institution of Carnatic music. The media platforms relay Carnatic music concerts, discourses and developments taking place in the music field and by doing so transmit the various norms, rules, practices and conventions that exist in this music sphere and ensure its transmission from one generation to the next. 

When we bring Dan Laughey’s analysis (Key Themes in Media Theory, 2007) into this, the control analysis can be concentrated on the musician; how he controls the manner of his presentation in a concert. The content analysis can be focused on the lyrical and musical structure of the piece that the musician presents. Media analysis explains how the mass media presents the performance for the audience. The audience analysis can be analyzed from the perspective of the listeners; how they perceive it and enjoy it. The effect analysis can be on what influence a musical work can make on the audience and on the society as a reflection; it can be just entertainment or sometimes it can turn revolutionary.

The High Culture Notion

High culture is a polarizing term which originated in the mid-19th century and was explicitly linked to class distinctions. Mathew Arnold introduced the term high culture in the book “Culture and Anarchy” (1869). His definition of culture as the “disinterested endeavour after man’s perfection to know the best that has been said and thought in the world”, corresponds with the more contemporary definitions of high culture. It consists of the texts and practices considered elite or of the highest class. When John Storey (2006) defined popular culture in six ways, the 2nd definition was “it is the culture that is left over after we have decided what is high culture”. When popular culture always stood as the mass culture, high culture remained in its cage of elites, and was also referred to as elite culture. Here, Carnatic music fits more into the high culture realm because elitists and the upper middle class especially, Brahmins, have been appropriating it as their own. Therefore, Carnatic music has always been in the realm of high culture. The way Carnatic music is performed, its introductory lessons, the costumes that are to be worn while performing, etc, are related with the traditional practices of Brahmins. It denotes its status as being more of the culture of classes rather than the culture of masses.

Let Our Music Free From Your Rules…

The origin of Carnatic music has a strong connection with the Hindu culture. Indian music is said to have originated from the Vedas. The whole religious concepts and traditions were nerve and sinew of our music. Temples were the hub of all musical activities. Music was hold to be one of the best forms of worship. It is believed that through Nadopasana the gods get pleased and the worshipper will be blessed. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas all carry citations to music. Composers of the earlier periods like Sadasiva Brahmendra, Bhodendra, Narayana theertha, all composed music in honour of the Divine. The musical trinity Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyamashastri were all religious people who composed on their ishta devata or on the temples , that is mainly compositions on gods and goddesses. Many ragas are named after gods on the credence that each god or goddess has a favourite raga.

The religious influence can be seen through out the growth of carnatic music in different eras. But is the bond an unbreakable one that the art can’t go beyond any concepts of the religion..Should it be tied and kept inside the so called upper class-hindu tradition forever.. Evaluating from a view that considers an art purely as expression of human being, the answer should be a NO. Then what happened when you practiced your NO in your music…?

Four singers- Aruna Sairam, Nityasree Mahdevan, O.S. Arun and P. Unnikrishnan- were targeted on social media for singing songs in praise of Jesus. Following the threats, Arun cancelled his participation in a programme organised by a Christian body while Nityasree clarified that she will not sing anymore compositions on non-Hindu gods.


Carnatic musician TM Krishna has always been the victim for various hindutva groups and conservative mass as plenty of his programmes being cancelled inside and outside the country only because of his incorporation of modern values and god of other religions into Carnatic music.

The debate on Carnatic musicians singing devotional songs of other religions began when Carnatic vocalist O.S. Arun got involved in a Christian musical event called ‘Esuvin Sangama Sangeetham’. The singer had to ultimately withdraw his participation from the event after a critical verbal attack from S. Ramanathan, founder of Rashtriya Sanathana Seva Sangam (RSSS) came out. In a report by The Wire, during a telephonic conversation, the RSSS founder asked Arun, “Why are you singing for Christians, being a Hindu?”
It is conjectured that T.M. Krishna took this decision to release one Carnatic song every month on Jesus or Allah after his clear exasperation of seeing the influence of the RSS creeping into Carnatic music as well.

Yes, of course you can oppress them..You can sit and wait to suppress and physically and mentally harass the future buds also who are gonna take part in this movement..Let your anger get settled…Let all your religious pride get flourished…But realise…atlast a point of time will reach where there will not be any single drop of music left upon which you wished to shower your fascism…..

Who Owns Music?

  • What is a musical work? “Musical work” means a work consisting of music and includes any graphical notation of such work but does not include any words or any action intended to be sung, spoken or performed with the music. A musical work need not be written down to enjoy copyright protection.
  • Who is the author of a musical work? The composer.
  • Who all have rights in a musical sound recording? There are many right holders in a musical sound recording. For example, the lyricist who wrote the lyrics, the composer who set the music, the singer who sang the song, the musician (s) who performed the background music, and the person or company who produced the sound recording.
  • Is it necessary to obtain any licence or permission to use a musical sound recording for public performance? A sound recording generally comprises various rights. It is necessary to obtain the licences from each and every right owner in the sound recording. This would ,inter alia, include the producer of the sound recording, the lyricist who wrote the lyrics, and the musician who composed the music.
  • What are the rights in a musical work? In the case of a musical work, copyright means the exclusive right :
  • To reproduce the work
  • To issue copies of the work to the public
  • To perform the work in public
  • To communicate the work to the public
  • To make cinematography film or sound recording in respect of the work
  • To make any translation of the work
  • To make any adaptation of the work.

The above given information are the summary of the copyright rules and ethics regarding music works, provided in the Hand Book of Copyright Law published by Government of India. The performances, cover songs, remixes and remakes that are being conducted in India are more or less in accordance with these copyrights. Still the controversies on this matter are getting accumulated day by day . Roshan Brothers and Ram Sampath Case, Infringement Against Dabang 2 Song, Barobax and Pritam Chakraborty, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and World War Z are some of the music infringement cases in Bollywood.


While coming to Tamil music industry, the spat that clashed between two elder musicians in the name of copyright hits a sudden blow to the listeners’ relishing sensation. The audience witnessed a messy legal tangle involving music composer Ilaiyaraaja and singer SP Balasubrahmaniam in 2017 , after the former served a legal notice on the singer when he was performing concerts in the US.

The notice stated that if they continued to perform his compositions, they would be denying the copyright law and would have to pay huge financial penalties with facing other legal action.

“As an Indian I feel very said. This legal notice could have been completely avoided. As a south Indian myself, I have grown up listening to both Shri Illayaraja’s music and Shri SP Balasubrahmanyam’s voice,” intellectual property rights lawyer Prathiba M Singh said.

This was and still a saddening thing for each and every music listener or art lover in the country.There arrived a high need for making the laws clear to the ordinary audience as well as the music industry people to avoid this kind of discrepancies. As in a commercialised era of music art, the concept of pure art is already at the point of death. The ambiguousness in these practices will only favour in constructing the art more exclusive.

Still the question remains, Who owns music? The music culture which dates back to centuries is the basis of all the musical works that are being produced today. The sapthaswaras are the primary foundation for all of the finely tuned as well as controversial songs ..It is true that the composer’s effort and talent have a great value but is it necessary to make these kind of competitions and enmity in the field apart from the popularity and acceptance that the composer is gaining? This is the way how the commercialisation trends are perfectly achieving the complete destruction of pure art sense from the audience minds…

Art Is No More Pure

“Therefore, this court feels that the petitioner made out prima facie case. The balance of convenience more rests on the petitioner. Unless an ad interim injunction is granted the petitioner would be put to irreparable loss and hardship.” This is an excerpt from the Chennai City Civil Court statement dated March 14,2019 which stayed the South Indian Cine,Television Dubbing Artists Union’s expulsion of Tamil playback singer Chinmayi Sripaada. It is a great victory and relief for the veteran singer in the music field as well as in the dubbing field as the elimination was about to demolish her job career forever. But does the court order make all congenial for her to resume her ever glowing career in a sudden morning? Is the court order pretty enough to erase all the gender barriers and discrimination she faced so far? Will it lead the accused artists in the petition to realize their faults and rethink upon it and will Chinmayi be able to regain her popularity in the stream?………. The singer’s own response unveils the amount of debarring and rejection she is facing and how her work offers got dried up after her divulging of a loathsome truth. How it happens and how could the advocates of the so called pure art behave like this when the court itself declares the balance of convenience more rest on her side? Yes, it brings out into the open that whatever adjectives you use to attribute the purity of art (innocence, kindness, love anything it can be..) ,the evil of gender discrimination is ample to make it impure.

image courtesy:New Indian Express

All the issues got started in the period of the me too movement when the playback singer Chinmayi Sripada accused Tamil poet lyricist Vairamuthu of harassing her. She tweeted her #me too story after sharing stories of anonymous survivors for days.

Despite the applause and support Chinmayi gained through her disclosure (naming Vairamuthu as a sexual predator), the price she had to pay for #me too was heavy. She has been cast out of the dubbing union in Chennai. That means she can no longer give her spoken voice to women on the big screen. All her work offers in music got dried up. She continued to receive threat calls for weeks and months. Remember, all it was during the time when a film she dubbed and sang every song for is being celebrated through out the land.

But she didn’t remain silent. She continued posting lists of artists in the industry who got accused in the me too wave. In fact, the president of the dubbing union Rdha Ravi was one among them which made the union so thirsty for the end of Chinmayi’s cinema career. The singer fought against the union in the High Court also which gave her the result as the above mentioned order.

Still do you think Chinmayi could engage in the industry as the way how she was there before? If she could , will the industry allow her? It is an unvarnished truth that the relief is temporary and a long battle ahead .

Why people are still insisting on the notion of pure art… Not only one Chinmayi or any other singer,, the bigority and molestation being faced by female artists in the classical as well as in the cine field of music art is in such a high manner that it is being continued since decades… Yes,, Art is impure…