IN THE current din of loud dissensions of differences of opinion, status, caste and creed, musician TM Krishna has tirelessly sought to unite people through his art and public service. On Friday, Krishna will be the guest at Express Adda, a unique occasion for individuals at the vanguard of change to share their thoughts and experiences during an informal interaction organised by The Indian Express Group.
Krishna is a rebel with many causes, exemplifying by his life and work, the concept of the artist as a concerned citizen. From his non-conformist approach to music and efforts to democratise the arts, to his outspoken views on political, social and cultural issues, Krishna occupies a special space as a pioneer in music and a social crusader.
Only 41, Thodur Madabusi Krishna is already considered one of the best Carnatic musicians ever. Born in Chennai and educated there, he began to learn music under his mother’s guru, Bhagavathulu Seetharama Sharma, at the age of six. He took specialised training under Chingleput Ranganathan and then the Carnatic legend, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, for nearly seven years. His talents as a musician, his wide repertoire of ragas and imaginative renditions brought him recognition very early in his career. Today, he is highly respected in the Carnatic music fraternity.
In recent years, Krishna has used his status as a successful artist to become an incisive commentator on many issues, especially discrimination in the arts. The Carnatic music world, he has said, is a “Brahmin dominated” art form which he has sought to change by making it accessible to everyone.
In the 1990s, he was president of the Youth Association of Classical Music that took Carnatic music to the youth and into public schools. He is associated with Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha, a counter-culture movement in Chennai which holds artistic performances in a village, open to all. His book, A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story (2016), provides a comprehensive critique of Carnatic music, practice and culture.
Between 2011-13, Krishna toured war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka and promoted festivals to revive the arts there.
His efforts towards “social inclusiveness in culture” won him the Magsaysay Award in 2016 and the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 2017.
In recent years, Krishna has been a much sought after public speaker. He writes regularly in the national media, including The Indian Express. He has been outspoken on subjects as varied as Hindutva, freedom of expression, oppression of Dalits and marginalised communities, as well as increasing communal and social polarisation.
Past guests at Express Adda include the Dalai Lama, former President Pranab Mukherjee, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, veteran journalist Mark Tully, writer Amitav Ghosh and cricketer Virat Kohli.