T M Krishna is a leading vocalist in the Karnatik tradition.
As a public intellectual, Krishna speaks and writes about issues affecting the human condition and about matters cultural. Krishna has started and is involved in many organizations whose work is spread across the whole spectrum of music and culture. He has co-authored Voices Within: Carnatic Music – Passing on an Inheritance, a book dedicated to the greats of Karnatik music. His book A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story was awarded the 2014 Tata Literature Award for Best First Book in the non-fiction category. His book ‘Reshaping Art’ published in 2018, asks important questions about how art is made, performed and disseminated and addresses crucial issues of caste, class and gender within society while exploring the contours of democracy, culture and learning. His latest book Sebastian and Sons traces the history of the mridangam-maker and the mridangam over the past century.
He has been part of inspiring collaborations, such as the Chennai Poromboke Paadal with environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, performances with the Jogappas (transgender musicians) and co-conceptualising and performing Karnatik Kattaikuttu, an unusual aesthetic conversation between art forms and communities that belong to two ends of the social spectrum. His musico-poetic partnership with India’s leading contemporary Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, is unprecedented. Rarely has a poet and a musician who are contemporaries collaborated to bring out works of art on the ‘classical’ stage. He has also been a pioneer in bringing the poetry of the social reformer and philosopher Narayana Guru into the karnatik fold. He is the driving force behind the Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha (formerly Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha) and the Svanubhava initiative.
In collaboration with the Ashoka University, T.M. Krishna is now involved in The Edict Project, an attempt to reimagine Ashoka’s edicts in musical form. The project aims at creating vibrant aesthetic, socio-political and academic conversations around the edicts.
In 2016, Krishna received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in recognition of ‘his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions’. In 2017 he received the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration Award for his services in promoting and preserving national integration in the country. In 2017, he has also received the Professor V Aravindakshan Memorial Award for connecting Carnatic music with the common man.
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