music and politics

Communalising Carnatic music: Artists face threats for singing devotional hymns in praise of Jesus

TM Krishna has responded by saying he will now release a Carnatic song on Jesus or Allah every month.

A discordant note has hit the world of Carnatic music. Several Carnatic musicians have been subject to threats and vile comments on social media for singing Christian Carnatic hymns or for participating in musical events organised by churches.

The uproar over the scheduled participation of Carnatic singer OS Arun at an event organised by Christians in Chennai on August 25, as reported in The Wire, is a case in point. The event, titled Yesuvin Sangama Sangeetham, was being organised by T Samuel Joseph, also known as Shyaam, a well-known music composer and violinist in Tamil Nadu. On August 6, Arun was targeted on social media and accused of colluding against Hindus with “stooges of the Vatican”. Arun later announced that he would not be performing at the event due to “personal commitments”.

It is believed that Arun withdrew from the event after being pressured by a man called Ramanathan, who claimed to be the head of an organisation named Rashtriya Sanathan Seva Sangh.

According to reports, an audio clip being circulated on WhatsApp is being projected as a conversation between Ramanathan and Arun. In the clip, which Scroll.in has been unable to verify independently, Ramanathan asks why Arun sings for Christians when he is a Hindu. Arun said that he has cancelled the event but Ramanathan was not satisfied with the answer. He said, “You should have never agreed to do this.”

Arun’s response was: “The Hindu Sanatana Dharma says we must respect all faiths. We only wanted to do a musical concert. Since many people opposed it we have cancelled the event now. Why don’t we leave this at that?”

In the conversation, the names of Carnatic artists such as Nithyashree Mahadevan, Bombay Jayashree and TM Krishna arise, and Ramanathan claimed that he has been calling them and “shouting” at them for singing Christian hymns or for singing in churches. He also claimed that the Rashtriya Sanathan Seva Sangh was a Hindu organisation “fighting for Hindus”. He directed a threat at Krishna. “We will make sure he’s beaten up wherever he goes next,” he said.

TM Krishna defiant

Responding to Ramanathan’s threat, on August 9, Krishna posted on Twitter that he will now release a Carnatic song on Jesus or Allah every month.

This is not the first time he is being threatened, Krishna said, adding that he will nevertheless exercise caution. “I heard the threat on audio and the kind of anger and vile comments being passed are just gross,” he said. “I didn’t know whether I should respond at all or let it play out.”

He added: “It is not easy to respond but I thought that the best way to do it would be through music. It will bring the repertoire on the forum. So that way, anyone can just do a Google search and find these compositions. That’s an important way [to bring this to the mainstream].”

Asked where the outrage against Carnatic singers who sing Christian hymns could be stemming from, Krishna indicated that the atmosphere in the country was perhaps to blame. “This is similar to the bigotry and Islamophobia that is brewing in the country,” he said. “It has always been in sight but now we are seeing an explosion of it. To put it bluntly, since the BJP and the RSS came to power, it has given people the right to be bigoted.”

He added: “The evolution of Carnatic music has been built on upper-caste Hindu nationalism and the community is very conservative.”

‘Extremist views’

In a video uploaded on YouTube on August 7, Ramanathan kept up his tirade against Christians and Carnatic musicians who associated with them. He also threatened that these artists would not be allowed to sing again if they continued to sing at Christian events. “Wherever they sing we will oppose them,” he said. “The consequences will be dire for these people.”

Some say that the spread of a rumour that a composition by Thyagaraja, a 19th century saint-composer, had been altered by Carnatic artists singing Christian hymns could be to blame for the current hostility towards them.

“People are claiming that one of Thyagaraja’s compositions has been tampered with and Rama or Krishna has been substituted with Jesus or Allah,” said Anil Srinivasan, a classical pianist. “There is no evidence of such a thing. But even if someone has done this, so what?”

Some claim that taking things deemed to be an intrinsic a part of Hinduism and using them to propagate Christianity was a case of cultural appropriation and would lead to “eventual proselytisation”.

Srinivasan dismissed such claims. “Haven’t we appropriated the imperial language, and Western ways of dressing and communication?” he said. “If I wish to express certain emotions using C major, then what is wrong in that? People are not going to get converted if they hear one song. This is just a bunch of sweeping extremist views.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The cost of setting up an employee-friendly office in Mumbai

And a new age, cost-effective solution to common grievances.

A lot has been theorised about employee engagement and what motivates employees the most. Perks, bonuses and increased vacation time are the most common employee benefits extended to valuable employees. But experts say employees’ wellbeing is also intimately tied with the environment they spend the bulk of the day in. Indeed, the office environment has been found to affect employee productivity and ultimately retention.

According to Gensler’s Workplace Index, workplace design should allow employees to focus, collaborate, learn and socialise for maximum productivity, engagement and overall wellbeing. Most offices lag on the above counts, with complaints of rows of cluttered desks, cramped work tables and chilled cubicles still being way too common.

But well-meaning employers wanting to create a truly employee-centric office environment meet resistance at several stages. Renting an office space, for example, is an obstacle in itself, especially with exorbitant rental rates prevalent in most business districts. The office space then needs to be populated with, ideally, ergonomic furniture and fixtures. Even addressing common employee grievances is harder than one would imagine. It warrants a steady supply of office and pantry supplies, plus optimal Internet connection and functioning projection and sound systems. A well-thought-out workspace suddenly begins to sound quite cost prohibitive. So, how can an employer balance employee wellbeing with the monthly office budget?

Co-working spaces have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional workspaces. In addition to solving a lot of the common problems associated with them, the co-working format also takes care of the social and networking needs of businesses and their employees.

WeWork is a global network of workspaces, with 10 office spaces in India and many more opening this year. The co-working giant has taken great care to design all its premises ergonomically for maximum comfort. Its architects, engineers and artists have custom-designed every office space while prioritising natural light, comfort, productivity, and inspiration. Its members have access to super-fast Internet, multifunction printers, on-site community teams and free refreshments throughout the day. In addition, every WeWork office space has a dedicated community manager who is responsible for fostering a sense of community. WeWork’s customised offerings for enterprises also work out to be a more cost-effective solution than conventional lease setting, with the added perks of WeWork’s brand of service.

The video below presents the cost breakdown of maintaining an office space for 10 employees in Vikhroli, Mumbai and compares it with a WeWork membership.

Play

To know more about WeWork and its office spaces in India, click here.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of WeWork and not by the Scroll editorial team.