The emergence of a raging controversy around a Carnatic singer who recently announced a concert dedicated to Christian songs is an issue to ponder over. He was hounded — subjected to abuse on the phone and on social media — till he cancelled the programme. Another group of eminent artistes was accused of helping proselytisers in their task when they sang Christian songs set to Carnatic tunes. Falsehood and abuse It soon gave rise to fake news. It was said that the songs of poet and composer Tyagaraja had been plagiarised, with the word ‘Rama’ changed to ‘Jesus’. Nothing could be more false than this. The similarity of lyrics in just one song does not make for concrete proof; all the artistes accused of this falsehood have denied such a charge. The propagators of the false claim have not been able to back their allegations with any evidence either.
In the world of films too, there were productions set to Christian themes. Papanasam Sivan composed the music for a song in Gnanasoundari (Citadel Pictures). P. Leela (to many, the voice of the Narayaneeyam), sang ‘Enai Aalum Mary Matha’ in Missiamma . M.L. Vasanthakumari sang a similar piece, in chaste Carnatic style, for the film, Punyavati . If anything, the impact of film songs would have been more widespread than any Carnatic concert featuring Christian songs. Ten years ago, Sister Margaret Bastin, a nun, made a fantastic presentation on the life of Karaikkal Ammaiyar at the Music Academy. Times were different and nobody saw the need to raise a hue and cry, which is why the present outcry does not make sense. Started by fringe elements and milked for what it is worth by publicity hounds, the controversy now has only obscured the facts. It is high time that those who perceive threats to Hinduism from these songs pondered over the facts and initiated course correction. And if they thought that Carnatic music is the means by which other religions can attract people, they are grossly overestimating the reach of this niche art.