Take Carnatic music to public spaces: TM Krishna

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 21, 2016

TM Krishna, Carnatic musician and recipient of the Magsaysay Award for 2016, in conversation with Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, at an event organised by Chennai International Centre in Chennai on Saturday - Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Carnatic music should not be restricted to ‘sabhas’ but should be moved to public spaces, and also delivered in different language forms to make it inclusive, said carnatc musician TM Krishna.

“I believe in moving Carnatic to public spaces. We are not having art in public spaces. Sabha is a private space,” he said in conversation with former West Bengal Governor Gopalakrishna Gandhi on ‘inclusive music,’ organised by Chennai International Centre, a think-tank to boost art, culture, theatre, music and creative thinking in Chennai.

Just because sabhas don’t charge for tickets, it does not become public. Everybody argues that they don’t charge tickets, it’s free. There is a cultural habituation that happens in these places, said Krishna who was recently named for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award.

There are multiple things that need to be done to make music inclusive. Perception has to be negotiated. “We have to think about what we sing in terms of content (lyrics),” he said.

There is only one type of Tamil in Carnatic music but there are so many Tamil dialects in Tamil Nadu. There is Tamil of Coimbatore, many Tamil dialects within Madurai and Tamil in Chennai. “Why don’t we explore those possibilities where language is not about content of the language but the sound of the language is also different. That is something I wanted to think about,” he said.

When asked if he is going to sing his next song in Madras language, pat came the reply, “why not? It may not be Madras baashai [language], but can be quasi but it is also an aesthetic question. There is a musical aspect in it, and I need to work on it. That itself will change the whole environment. We have to think about it. That is one of the ideas,” he said.

Over the years, there have been musicians who have sung Tamil compositions. “I don’t want to disown Tyagaraja; I don’t want to throw away Muthuswami Dikhshidar or Syama Sastri. This is not a caste-based observation. This is musical observation. The challenge is how can Tyagaraja co-exist with a Tamil composer. There are different challenges. Yes, lot of Tamil compositions can be taught and brought in at the same time,” he said.

The use of Tamil could not be at the cost of other languages identified with the tradition of Carnatic music and one could not take an extreme view of it, he said.

On whether Carnatic music should be left to its traditional roots, Krishna said, every art form is distinctive. It is like asking someone to cook is okay. But insisting only women must cook is a troubling narrative, he said.

Krishna said rejection of Carnatic music is part of a discourse, and should be welcomed. “When I sing on the beach, fascinating things happen, which will never happen in any sabha.

Yennaya paadaraan indha aaalu [what is this person singing]. Isn’t it that a beautiful thing. We are not used to that. We don’t like listening to that but we will say that about every other art form. We are empowered to say that, there is no problem. It is fabulous,” he said.

When asked how he would react if somebody in Music Academy says yennaya paadaraaan avan [what is he singing], Krishna said, “I have heard that before and does not bother me. What bothers me is when there is inability to spend some time in this engagement.”

About the Magsaysay award, he said, “Awards actually disturb me a bit. I don’t know what to figure out. But, I see the Magsaysay award as a celebration of music and art as part of the human dialogue. Unfortunately, for a long time we have looked at art as an evil or pleasure or something that lets you to forget the feelings of the day. There is something more that art does. It is a celebration of not just Carnatic music but all art.”

Published on August 21, 2016
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