When we uploaded our reports about the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards and the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, we received many emails and messages on Facebook (privately), telling us about the unfair process of selection of the awardees.
There were musicians who told us that awards were given on recommendations and this largely depended on favouritism. Musicians usually approach each other and say, “Aap hamare bete ko recommend kar dijiye, uske badley me hum aapke student ko recommended kar denge.”
(If you recommend my son for the award, I will recommend any of your students against it.)
A renowned Tabla player’s daughter messaged us and told us how disappointed she was. However, when asked to speak up openly about it, she refrained.
” In a profession where everything largely depends on exchange deals of concerts between musicians, how will music progress?”, said a noted vocalist who refused his name to be mentioned.
In this scenario, Classical Claps welcomes the message that was received from eminent Tabla player, Anuradha Pal, who has very respectfully and clearly come out with her courageous, clear and straightforward views of why she thinks the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee selection process is unfair and needs to be revised strongly.
On 21st June, we had published Anuradha’s first letter addressed to fellow musicians. However, the artist has sent us some more points that left us pondering on the policies of the SNA Awards. We are incorporating these in our report. Here is her open letter to the members of the Sangeet Natak Akademi General Council:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SANGEET NATAK ACADEMY GENERAL COUNCIL
Respected Sirs and Madams,
I write with reference to your recent announcement of the Sangeet Natak Academy (SNA) awards. While the trigger was the fact that you awarded a junior Musician while ignoring my contribution of over 25 years, I am NOT unhappy because I did not get a ‘Sangeet Natak Academy Yuva award’ as some people have conveniently distorted or misquoted! I am disappointed and pained by the unfair SELECTION PROCESS AND CRITERION OF THE SNA which is based on recommendation & lineage, rather than on merit & talent! I humbly request your patient perusal of the facts below –
1) According to an SNA jury member, the criterion for selection is a recommendation from another SNA awardee, even if he/ she is a relative of the applicant for the award.. Then how can one expect objectivity and a fair chance for those artistes who do not belong to musician/ influential families?
2) I am a self-made Musician and a female in this male-dominated field of Tabla & do not have any musical lineage to boast of… Is this why I have been discriminated and am still denied opportunity/ concerts/ awards, even after proving myself for decades? Why didn’t SNA consider giving me the Yuva Puraskar all these years, when I started performing Tabla solos and accompanying Stalwarts since I was 10 years old?
3) All the Members on the selection committee of SNA are very knowledgable and well informed. I am sure you know, that I have been internationally acknowledged as the ‘Trailblazer and Trendsetter who opened the doors for opportunity & recognition for Indian female percussionists?’ It is rather saddening that SNA should, again and again, reward younger female Tabla players from Musician backgrounds, while totally ignoring my contribution of over 25 years. Do I NOT deserve any encouragement/ appreciation or recognition for my back breaking efforts in getting women a level playing field, just because I, unfortunately, do NOT have any musical lineage or political connections?
4) The Ministry of WCD awarded me the ‘First Ladies Award’ in 2018 for being the ‘First & youngest Indian female Musician to perform in the World famous Woodstock festival for 4 lakh fans in 2008 & making India proud!! I have presented my innovations like ‘Tabla Jugalbandi with myself’ & International collaborations at World Class festivals, yet SNA sadly does nothing to encourage & acknowledge me.
4) I am not ‘lucky’ as some people, selfishly trivialise my hard work. I wish there was empathy for my constant struggle against societies prejudices, favouritism and politics. I have done several chillas (Riyaaz for 10 hours every day for forty days) all through my formative years and have continued my saadhana ceaselessly, to forever remain, a humble student of music.. all this, while maintaining my dignity & principles. I have never spoken up all these years, but how long can I take this injustice?
6) Some people think that ‘artists should be above all these awards and should just do saadhana & keep quiet..’ The fact is that Awards DO matter.. what else can explain why Top musicians still put a ‘Padmashri’ / ‘Padmavibhushan’ etc before their name in all their publicity? It is because these prestigious awards greatly influence your opportunities as a musician & the standing and respect, you command. Concert opportunities, Awards & recognition for us artistes, are motivational & inspirational and like water and oxygen, is to a plant. I also need encouragement to grow, to create, innovate, endure and progress.. The great Begum Akhtar ji also expressed her unhappiness about not getting awards.. Still she only got them after her death!! Is that going to be my fate too?
7) As you would appreciate, my concerns have always been beyond, just myself.. Some facts for your kind consideration –
a) To help other women come up, I formed India’s first all-female Indian classical Band ’Stree Shakti’ in 1996 and toured across the world, thus spreading this message of female empowerment through equal opportunity. Stree Shakti is going strong & performing.. sadly SNA has presented us just once!
b) I have organised Sur aur Saaz Music festivals since 1993, to promote young, outstanding musicians & conducted’Music for Wellness’ workshops for 3500 children at the National Bal Bhavan.
c) From my hard-earned concert money, I have self- financed Music albums and DVDs of different musicians, so that the beauty of our Indian classical, Folk & spiritual Music spreads across the world..
d) I had filed a petition with the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to remove the Musician Tax (which the Airlines called ‘Handling fee’), that was unfairly imposed on musicians’ instruments for check in, by the airlines in 2013. I organised a signature campaign and got great support from across the world and was finally able to get the law changed, after backbreaking efforts.
While all this social work has meant huge personal sacrifice, with lots of hard work and discipline, all of the above efforts have benefited ALL artists & the field at large.
8) My writing on Social media is my humble effort to sensitise important Organisations and people, who can make or break an artist’s career. I pray that I am not a victim of further discrimination & nepotism. I hope that through this humble letter, I become the Voice of all those great people, who suffered alone (or are still suffering) the humiliation of their talent being ignored.
9) Just like a burning flame needs cupped hands, to protect it from the onslaught of the wind, I also need the valuable support, encouragement & recognition from Government and Music organisations to practise, perform and grow; despite the very disheartening, unchanging prejudices, favouritism, nepotism and politics in our music world.
I have slogged for years to get here, with the blessings of my family, Gurus, Veteran Musicians, friends & fans. I still have a very long way to go. I humbly request you to be fair to me & also give me concerts, awards and recognition, as you give others and NOT hurt my spirit repeatedly by ignoring my musical innovations and efforts like this, for years.
I remain resolute & dedicated, in my pursuit of excellence & in the service of music, as always.