Yo, Theresa May, where’s the money for Glenfell, rapped south London MC Stormzy addressing the British Prime Minister at the Brit Awards 2018, giving the world one of the year’s more intrepid statements from the world of music. He continued, You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages, you should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this. A 25-year-old popstar was using a public platform to question the Prime Minister of the UK, and asking her about refurbishment of the tower in West London that caught fire in 2017 and killed 72 people. Stormzy’s effort was worthy of attention.
Musically speaking, it was a different sort of a year. The pressure indicators shifted. From the times when artistes speaking about politics didn’t make it to the headlines, to now when it is significant for them to speak up as “all art is political”, 2018 was an important year. And one of the noted targets was Donald Trump, who found criticism from some of the biggest artistes due to the US-Mexico border situation. Singer Taylor Swift also broke her silence and endorsed a Democrat.
Back home, the hashtag #DisinviteTMKrishna became viral after SPICMACAY announced that the Chennai-based Carnatic musician was to sing in Delhi’s Nehru Park for their famed ‘Music in the Park’ series. The musician’s discourse on inclusiveness in the arts and perspective on Indian politics has found both bouquets and brickbats, for a while now. He was being criticised for his “Christian Carnatic songs” and “Islamic Carnatic songs”. Krishna called it an attempt to make the art form accessible not just for Hindus. He was soon called “anti-India” and “urban Naxal”. The concert was cancelled by SPICMACAY after Airport Authority of India, one of the sponsors, cited “exigencies” and pulled out from the event. The Delhi government came forward and organised the concert at the Capital’s Garden of Five Senses. The concert on a cold wintery evening was attended by hundreds including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Those who sat, spoke in hushed awe about the evening’s sublime music that included poetry by Kabir, and that in reverence of Krishna and Jesus Christ in Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam.
Music and #MeToo
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum in India, the Indian music world wasn’t untouched. After Pakistani singer and actor Meesha Shafi accused Ali Zafar of sexual misconduct “despite being an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind” and playback singer Chinmayi Sripada spoke of being groped at a reality show, singer Sona Mohapatra accused colleague Kailash Kher of sexual misconduct. Mohapatra’s allegations come days after two women separately levelled sexual misconduct allegations against Kher. Mumbai-based Sukhnidh Kaur, 19, accused Grammy-winning mohan veena player Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt of harassing her when she was 14. She said Bhatt had performed at her school and she was a part of the choir. In the Carnatic music world popular slide instrumentalist Chitraveena N Ravikiran, a Sangeetha Kalanidhi awardee was dropped from the music season in December by the Madras Music Academy owing to sexual harassment allegations from an anonymous student. Other musicians who were dropped from the long list of the Acdemy included vocalist O S Thyagarajan, mridangam players Mannargudi A Easwaran, Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan and Srimushnam V Raja Rao, and violinists Nagai Srirama and R Ramesh.
The Legacy of Amala Shankar
Dancer Amala Shankar, the leading actor in the 1948 film Kalpana, and someone who always lived and danced in the shadow of her partner, famed dancer Uday Shankar, entered her 100th year on June 27 with celebrations in Kolkata. In the world of dance, while the trailblazing fame was always Uday, Amala has been synonymous with disseminating his legacy to a new generation of dancers to ensure that “it wasn’t lost”.
End of an Era
Annapurna Devi, a scion of Maihar gharana, Ut Allauddin Khan’s daughter, Pt Ravi Shankar’s first wife and an iconic surbahar player, passed away at 91, leaving behind a rich legacy. A reclusive musician, she practised her music like a sadhika, devoted her life to her father’s musical teachings and passed on her knowledge to some students, most notably Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nityanand Haldipur and Basant Kabra, among others. She chose to remain away from the limelight, hardly ever performed in public, never formally recorded, didn’t care for awards and didn’t do interviews.
Year of remixes
A slew of crass remixes dominated the market in 2018. The recreated songs like Ek do teen (Baaghi 2), Dilbar (Satyamev Jayate) and Chalte chalte (Mitron) were cleverly used as marketing strategies. In case of Chalte chalte sung by Atif Aslam in Mitron, the song’s original singer, Lata Mangeshkar, raised the matter of consent and how no permission was sought before retouching the melody. She stood up for the rights of original creators. In the days to come, one hopes that others do the same.