TM Krishna: Art must move to unconventional venues

Updated: 06 December, 2017 10:58 IST | Snigdha hasan | Mumbai

Ahead of multiple concerts in Mumbai, including one at Afghan Church, TM Krishna speaks of taking music to unconventional venues, and being the first Carnatic artiste to perform at NH7

Tm Krishna is not your conventional musician. Through the decades, his work has been geared towards expanding the very horizons of classical music he is rooted in. His identity as a public intellectual, writer and social activist flows from his identity as a Carnatic vocalist, and he minces no words when he has an opinion to share. A recipient of the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award for his advocacy of the power of art to heal India's social divisions, he was also recently conferred with the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.

Art must move to unconventional venues

The Chennai-based artiste returns to Mumbai with the second edition of the Karnatic Modern series spread over two weekends and several venues. An amalgam of concerts, conversations and lecture demonstrations, the series also features many firsts — a collaboration of Carnatic classical musicians with the Kattaikkuttu Sangam, a group that presents the traditional movement and musical theatre form from Tamil Nadu; and making music with Grammy-winning ghatam player Padma Bhushan Vikku Vinayakram in Mumbai.

The finale will be held inside the iconic Afghan Church  The finale will be held inside the iconic Afghan Church

Edited excerpts from an interview:

How does your music inform your work in other fields?
I am a singer. The aesthetic experience of music is my pathway to understanding life. Therefore, everything I say in word and note is the same; only the medium changes.

Your books on Carnatic music speak of a bias towards higher castes. Are things changing?
It will take many years, even a few generations for this to change. We have just begun the conversation and I hope that the next generation takes it forward. We have to first accept that there is a problem. That will be the first step to finding ways to address it.

Is India's growing indie music scene impacting classical traditions?
I don't think the indie scene has any direct impact on classical music. But I want indie musicians to find their own aesthetic voice. Barring a few serious and exciting bands, a lot of indie work still seems patchy to me. We need new genres of music emerging from India and indie can be a place where this can happen.  Tell us about your upcoming performance at NH7 Weekender. I am looking forward to performing at NH7 Weekender. It is possibly the first time that a Carnatic concert is going to happen there. It happened very simply; they asked and I said yes! A fascinating place to take Carnatic music to, isn't it?

How was the upcoming concert series curated?
First Edition Arts [a Mumbai-based arts company that has produced and curated the series] has always been open to presenting ideas that are serious, questioning and fresh. When we began the conversation on the second edition of the Karnatic Modern, the first thing that we decided on was the Kattaikuttu collaboration. It is enriching to allow art forms that belong to different socio-cultural worlds, to come together. I have had the honour of performing twice with Vidvan Vikku Vinayakaram and  now, Mumbai will witness the sound of the ghatam and the voice intermingle sans any mediation.

You are performing across venues in Mumbai, including the Afghan Church. How important is a venue to a performance?
[Curator] Devina Dutt looks to situate art forms in spaces that are not traditionally associated with them. The Afghan Church is one such move. Space and context can change the texture of art and its experience. Hence, it is important that we keep moving art to unconventional, even uncomfortable venues. This will help in its evolution and keep it connected with the real world.

What would be an ideal music scene in India?
That's like asking what an ideal social scene in India would look like. We know the ideal is not going to happen. But an active, reflective music scene is one where there are many musical counter movements to constantly challenge the status quo.
A musical environment where different kinds of music contest each other without fear, hierarchy or suppression.

On : December 9 (6.30 pm) and 10, (10.30 am to 6.30 pm)
At : G5A, Mahalaxmi.
On : December 15, 16 and 17 (multiple venues)
Log on to :
Call : 9820091771
Entry : Rs.960 (December 9)

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First Published: 06 December, 2017 10:35 IST

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