Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

FROM THE EDITOR

Some Sangita Kalanidhi speculations 
The Music Academy of Chennai will soon announce the name of the next Sangita Kalanidhi. Many sabhas will also announce similar awards and honour musicians with comparable ceremony, but the Academy’s title is still considered the highest honour in the world of Carnatic music, even if there have been a few hits and misses in the eight decades and more of the institution’s life. We hear talk of the existence of a rotation policy and quota system, considerations of youth alternating with those of experience, vocal versus instrumental, concessions to demands for inclusiveness, so on and so forth. Because last year’s Kalanidhi was a woman violinist, for instance, we may surmise that the next one will be neither female nor an instrumentalist.

It is of course easier to criticise these so-called errors of omission and commission than to sit down and select a worthy claimant to the title. What is more, during the good times of abundant talent, some excellent artists are bound to miss out, especially those not blessed with longevity. Examples abound from the past, when an artist of such eminence as Lalgudi Jayaraman had to refuse to be considered for the award as a mark of protest, and giants like T.N. Rajarathnam, Palani Subramania Pillai and M.D. Ramanathan were left out. A few living maestros, especially instrumentalists who strode the Carnatic music stage like colossi (yes, that is the dictionary plural of the word), have even expressed anger and unwillingness to accept the award if it comes their way late in their lives. We have also heard that some stalwarts of the past have bullied or lobbied their way to the coveted title. None of this is unique to music awards or the Sangita Kalanidhi in particular; they are true of awards in general, and it is of course impossible to satisfy all constituents of the music world as to the genuineness of the claims to greatness of all the awardees.

Sruti has been advocating the broadbasing of the Sangita Kalanidhi award to offer at least three classifications: vocal, instrumental (wind and string), and percussion. We are convinced such a move will not dilute the award, while taking a step towards recognising the contribution of a greater number of outstanding musicians.

While the actual Sangita Kalanidhi conferment date is months away, another event in the cultural landscape of the state and indeed the country looms much closer ahead: the selection of the new director of Kalakshetra. Will it be an eminent artist or someone with credentials as an arts administrator? The prescribed age limit of 60 (or 65) will keep out a number of distinguished artists and teachers, who might otherwise qualify for the position. The process of calling for applications also rules out some worthy prospective candidates who are not comfortable with the idea of applying for a post.  This can of course be dealt with by the selection committee making a short list and finding out if the shortlisted persons are interested in applying. Regardless of who makes the cut, we hope for a worthy and controversy-free choice to be made to helm this remarkable institution.


V. RAMNARAYAN

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