TM Krishna & The Sound Of Speaking Out
By Sukant Deepak
KOZHIKODE – He says growing up in an environment at home where questioning and debating was encouraged, where one had the space to put forth his thoughts, no matter how radical, have been instrumental in shaping him as the person he is.
Ramon Magsaysay Award winner TM Krishna, who is not just a musician and author, stresses, “And then I went to a Krishnamurti School that further cemented the resolve that you cannot remain quiet, that you are part of the question…”
“The duet of the outside and inside, and that is what pushes me to constantly engage with what we encounter politically and socially,” he said.
For someone, whose performing career began at the age of 12, he has multiple books to his credit including ‘Sebastin And Sons’, where he talks about the integrity of the Mridangam on the Karnatik stage and the Dalit Christian communities involved in the making of percussion instrument, and ‘Reshaping Art’, where he raises questions about how art is made, performed and disseminated, and addressing issues as caste, class, and gender within society while exploring the contours of democracy, culture, and learning.
“Currently I am finishing a book which has been pending for a long time on the symbols of India — the anthem, flag, preamble of the constitution, the emblem, and motto. Now it is on the edit desk, and I am excited to get it done,” he says.
Stressing that being a musician, his life, and therefore all thoughts evolve from sound, Krishna adds, “Therefore all my inquiries in the public space emerge from what I learn in music, and what it offers me as experiences. It gives me many answers too. So, when someone asks me how my music and writing come together — sounds help me answer questions. I don’t see them as disparities. I feel a continuum.”
Occupying almost a ‘rockstar’ space, Krishna laughs that his exposure, and learning so much, becoming a writer and activist has also helped him with a diverse understanding of life and that has lent him the position he has today.”
The singer, who performed to a full house at the festival venue is known for his ‘innovations’, one of the primary issues that purists have being that he renders varnams (traditionally introductory pieces) in the middle of a concert.
“Now there is a double side to it, and of course, that is where my privilege comes in. But if I cannot hold myself against the pressure, what is the point of it all. Imagine the people who have the ideas to push but cannot — so it opens possibilities for them — they should be able to ask those questions.”
Krishna, who performed at Shaheen Bagh during the peak of the protests and believes that art by its very nature is a social being, says the movement moved him immensely.
“I sometimes expect people to do what I am doing, and maybe that is not fair. However, I am sure that it is possible within their way to try and go to spaces or touch upon ideas that make them uncomfortable. If you cannot do that, you are not making art. Also, let us not forget that several torch bearers are completely invisible. Just because they are not speaking the social language of activism, does not mean they are not hard at work to ensure instrumental changes.”
Talk to him about self-censorship, and he asserts that at one level we all are self-censoring — the greatest fear being that we do not know when it starts to become ‘normal’. “My peeve with artists of privilege is when they try to give financial reasons for not speaking up. I have had many concerts canceled and several organizers backing out…” (IANS)