TM Krishna, the man who used music to heal India’s deep social divisions

Krishna, is most famously known for distancing himself from the Chennai Music Season.

By: Express Web Desk | Updated: July 27, 2016 6:15 pm
Carnatic vocalist, TM Krishna will receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, the foundation announced on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Jhothy Karat) Carnatic vocalist, TM Krishna will receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, the foundation announced on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Jhothy Karat)

The efforts of Carnatic classical vocalist Thodur Madabusi Krishna to break down the hierarchies that exist among the art forms, the artistes and the people who listen to it will be recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and will be awarded soon, the foundation announced Wednesday.

Krishna will receive the award for “his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions, breaking barriers of caste and class to unleash what music has to offer not just for some but for all,” a citation on the website stated.

A celebrated Carnatic vocalist, TM Krishna performing ever since he was six. Born in a family of musically influenced people, he went on to be a disciple of the late Padma awardee, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Krishna has also received a bachelor’s in Economics from the Vivekanand College in Madras, but music remained to take the centerstage in hid life and he had launched a formal career as a vocalist by the time he was 20.

Krishna, is most famously known for distancing himself from the Chennai Music Season. He highlighted its non-inclusive nature that leaves out non-Brahmin musicians and certain art forms that do not fall under the purview of Carnatic classical and Bharatanatayam as the reason for his boycott. The December music season in Chennai is almost a century old celebration that draws people and musicians in droves from the world over.

His boycott was followed by him launching his own music festival, which lived up to his ideologies. He organized the Uroor-Olcott Kuppam Marghazi Vizha, a Carnatic classical music festival on the beach in the centuries-old fishing village in February 2016, as an attempt to “push out caste elitism from the existing Carnatic music system” and unite various art forms.

WATCH VIDEO: TM Krishna, Bezwada Wilson are among awardees of 2016 Ramon Magsaysay award


He has started and is involved in various organisations who work across the whole spectrum of Carnatik music, including research, archiving and documentation, popularising Carnatik music in remote areas and supporting underprivileged south Indian artistes. He has tried creating access to various art forms, many unheard and non popular, cutting across class and caste barriers through a festival called Svanubhava.

Krishna has also co-authored ‘Voices Within: Carnatic Music – Passing on an Inheritance’, a book dedicated to the greats of Karnatik music, along with Mythili Chandrasekar. His most recent book, A Southern Music, published by Harper Collins in December 2013, is a described as a “first-of-its-kind work on the Carnatic tradition” by his own website. Krishna also writes columns for reputed dailies occasionally, on various topics of the socio-political spectrum.

For all the latest Lifestyle News, download Indian Express App

  1. M
    Jul 28, 2016 at 11:14 am
    Is this a joke or what? Beyond a very, very small coterie and a left media primarily The Hindu, no one from Dalit community or anyone in music field cares knows or cares what this Brahmin battery has been doing! Now since he has got the award, let him stop singing which will be a huge relief. As for is weekly trash in The Hindu he can go as no one reads either The Hindu or his garbage.
    1. S
      Jul 29, 2016 at 3:48 am
      I accept fully the principles of TM Krishnan the subject (taking music to remote places irrespective of caste or religion) which I wondered even from my childhood.The beauty of our ancient music should be adorned by all and it should be an open resource enjoyable by all. What Mr. TM Krishnan has done should have done by the governments particularly the Dravidian based party ruled governments , since there very agenda is this radical view of that of Krishnan.
      1. J
        Jul 27, 2016 at 8:36 am
        Congrats for getting one of the highest awards of Asia.
        1. P
          Priya B
          Jul 28, 2016 at 1:45 am
          This man has done absolutely nothing to deserve this award. He has a good publicist for his silly stunts like singing in an urban slum once!...who has lobbied for this award. How can he be compared to past recipients like Sainath and Dr.;br/gt;lt;br/gt;India sucks when it comes to nominating true worthies....
          1. R
            Jul 27, 2016 at 10:06 am
            In essence, the award is given because he attacks tradition and not because he has contributed to arts.
            1. Load More Comments