Updated: November 15, 2018 11:18:54 am
Thodur Madabusi Krishna, popularly known as TM Krishna or TMK, is a Carnatic music vocalist. He is also a speaker and writer on social and cultural issues.
Krishna was born and brought up in Chennai. He studied in The School, KFI, before completing his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Vivekananda College, which is affiliated to the Madras University. Born into a family of musicians, Krishna has been performing since the age of six. He has trained under Vidvan Seetharama Sarma, Chingleput Ranganathan and Padma awardee Semmangudi Srinivasier.
He has written three books, ‘Voices Within: Carnatic Music — Passing on an Inheritance‘ (2007), ‘A Southern Music — The Karnatik Story‘ (2013) and more recently ‘Reshaping Art‘ (2018). Apart from this, he has written extensively in the media.
Krishna, who distanced himself from the December Margazhi season in Chennai, launched his own Carnatic classical music festival, the Uroor-Olcott Kuppam Marghazi Vizha, in 2016 in an attempt to “push out caste elitism from the existing Carnatic music system”. During The Indian Express‘ Adda in January 2018, Krishna said his decision to challenge the social order came after he started questioning the world of music which, from “concentric circles enlarged into larger questions of society, politics, culture, music and aesthetics”.
He had added, “I come from every privilege… caste privilege, gender privilege, economic privilege, and a certain kind of English-speaking privilege. Caste is not something I was grappling with. The more I immersed myself in art, questions of history started coming. Questions of beauty, sophistication, and these questions started troubling me. Soon you are asking questions of power structures and society. I stumbled onto caste. And it hit me on my face that all the mumbo jumbo about art experience means nothing if I don’t really come face to face with who I am. I’m taking my own voice and my community’s voice and challenging it as hard as possible.”
Krishna’s performance in the national capital in November 2018 was allegedly cancelled due to a campaign by right-wing trolls. He was to perform during the two-day “Dance and Music in the Park” festival at Nehru Park, Chanakyapuri, organised jointly by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the cultural body, SPIC-MACAY. However, the AAI said it was not in a position to go ahead with it because of “some exigencies of work”. A tweet of the event, posted by Krishna, had activated trolls who targeted the government body for using public funds to sponsor an artist who sings about “Jesus and Allah” and is “anti-India”.
In 2016, Krishna was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award. He was recognised 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.” He has also been awarded the Tata Literature Award for Best First Book in the non-fiction category in 2014, the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration Award in 2017 and the Professor V Aravindakshan Memorial Award in 2017.
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