T. M. Krishna

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T. M. Krishna
TM Krishna mavelikara2019.jpg
TM Krishna At Mavelikkara, Kerala 2019
Background information
Also known asTMK
Born (1976-01-22) 22 January 1976 (age 43)
Chennai, India
OriginTamil Nadu, India
GenresIndian classical
Occupation(s)Singer, Lecturer, Author, Activist
Years active1988–present

Thodur Madabusi Krishna (born 22 January 1976) is a Carnatic music vocalist, writer, activist and author. As a vocalist, he has made a large number of innovations in both the style and substance of his concerts, thereby inviting controversy from some quarters. As an activist, he has championed a number of causes connected to the environment, the caste system, communalism, religious reform, reform of social practices and so on. In the year 2016 he was awarded with the Ramon Magsaysay Award 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”[1].

Background and personal life[edit]

Krishna was born in Chennai on 22 January 1976[2] into a Tamil Brahmin family, the son of T. M. Rangachari and his wife Prema Rangachari. His mother and maternal uncle Dr. Sriram Subramaniam founded and run a school named Vidya Vanam for tribal and underprivileged students in Anaikatti, Tamil Nadu[3]. Krishna is the grand nephew of Congress politician and freedom fighter T.T. Krishnamachari (former Indian finance minister and industrialist), who was also one of the founding members of the Madras Music Academy.[4]

Krishna is an alumnus of The School(Krishnamurti Foundation of India), Chennai. Krishna received his B.A. degree in Economics from Vivekananda College, University of Madras. He is married to Sangeetha Sivakumar, a reputed carnatic musician.[5] He lives with his wife and two daughters in Chennai.


Both of Krishna's parents had deep interest in the arts, especially Carnatic music. His mother had received music lessons in her childhood in the typical south Indian style, and had even taken a degree in Carnatic Music.[4] Krishna's parents ensured that he received exposure to the classical arts from a young age. They arranged for him to receive music lessons from a very young age. Krishna began his musical training under Bhagavathula Seetharama Sharma. He later underwent special Ragam Thanam Pallavi grooming under Chingleput Ranganathan. He also trained with the doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer for five years from 1997 to 2002.

Krishna's performing career began at the age of 12 with his debut concert at the Spirit of Youth series organized by the Music Academy, Chennai (India). He has since performed widely at various festivals and venues across the world, including the Madras Music Academy, National Centre for the Performing Arts (India), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, to name a few.

His music is often appraised as being soulful and full of 'raga bhava'. Among his many renditions, some of the most popular among his listeners include 'Jambupathe' in Yamunakalyani and 'Manavinala' in Nalinakanthi. His music during the last decade was reputed for his powerful, deep voice and his ability to sing rapid swaras in many rare ragas. He now shows a focus on Neraval, an improvisational form which he believes has been distorted over the ages. He is also famous for his 'innovations' in the method he presents his concerts, one of the primary issues that purists have being that he renders varnams (traditionally introductory pieces) in the middle of a concert. He is also working towards a project in which Dikshithar compositions from the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini are rendered exactly according to their notation in the book. [6]

Krishna speaks and writes about a wide range of issues, not confined to the cultural sphere. His interests span the breadth of leftwing activism, be it the environment, the caste system, social reform, religious reform, combating communalism, innovation in classical music and so on. He has started and is involved in many organizations whose work is spread across the spectrum of music and culture. Recently, he has spoken out against the revocation of Article 370[7], the destruction of statues[8].

Krishna is part of the team of activists that organizes the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Festival[9] in Chennai and the Svanubhava[10] initiative in Chennai. He has been part of inspiring collaborations, such as the Chennai Poromboke Paadal [11] with environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman. He has collaborated for performances with the Jogappas[12] (transgender musicians) and has brought on to the concert stage the poetry of Perumal Murugan. He also speaks in various conferences and academic institutions, including Harvard University, Chennai Mathematical Institute, the Indian Institutes of Technology, and the Indian Institutes of Management.

Among his awards are the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award[13] (2016) in recognition of ‘his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions’, the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration (2017) for his services in promoting and preserving national integration in the country, and the Professor V. Aravindakshan Memorial Award (2017) for connecting Carnatic music with the common man.

The song 'Venpura' of the movie Gypsy (2019 film) directed by Raju Murugan is Krishna's first playback song. Santhosh Narayanan is the music director. [14]


  • Reshaping Art (2018). In his most recent book, T.M. Krishna raises questions about how art is made, performed and disseminated, and addressing such issues as caste, class and gender within society while exploring the contours of democracy, culture and learning.[15][16] The book was published by Aleph Book Company.
  • Katrinile Karainda Tuyar (2018). Krishna's long-form essay 'MS understood' was translated into Tamil and published as a book ‘Katrinile Karainda Tuyar’ by Kalachuvadu Publications.
  • MS understood (2017). His long-form essay 'MS understood'[17], for The Caravan was featured in The Caravan Book of Profiles published by Penguin in 2017, as one of their “twelve definitive profiles.”
  • A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story (2013). Published in 2013 by Harper Collins, the book was released by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Chairman of Kalakshetra, Gopalkrishna Gandhi.[18] It discusses the philosophy, aesthetics, sociology and history of Carnatic music. The book was awarded the 2014 Tata Literature Award for Best First Book in the non-fiction category.[19]
  • Voices Within (2007). Three Carnatic singers, namely Bombay Jayashri, T.M. Krishna and Mythili Chandrasekhar, got together to publish the first-ever coffee table book on Carnatic Music in January 2007. The book is a labor of love and pays tributes to seven Carnatic music maestros. The first copy of the book was received by the former President of India, Abdul Kalam at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. This book was later translated in Tamil and published by Ananda VIkatan Publications in the year 2011.
  • Ashis Nandy: A Life in Dissent (2018). Krishna has contributed one chapter to this book, which contains a number of essays by various people, all written in praise of the Indian sociologist Ashis Nandy. The book is a reflection on Ashis Nandy's life work as a thinker.[20][21]

Articles and lectures[edit]

Krishna also frequently writes on topics ranging from music (including its practice, musicians, history and future) to society, culture, politics and religion. His articles have been published across most leading Indian newspapers and magazines such as The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Hindustan Times, Outlook, India Today, and Open, as well as several online portals such as Scroll, The Wire, DailyO, and Firstpost. Krishna has also delivered lectures at a variety of institutions, including leading universities across the world. Noteworthy among these lectures are:

  • Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture (2018) [22]
  • AK Ramanujan Lecture (2018) [23]
  • Professor Ram Bapat Memorial Lecture (2017) [24]
  • Dr. Ashok Da Ranade Memorial Lecture (2016) [25]
  • Kumar Gandharva Memorial Lecture (2014) [26]

Initiatives and collaborations[edit]

Chennai Poromboke Paadal[11]

The Chennai Poromboke Paadal music video was released on 14 January 2017 on YouTube. An initiative by T.M.Krishna and environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman - the Tamil song was written by Kaber Vasuki and composed by R. K. Shriramkumar, and the video was directed by Rathindran Prasad. The video featured Krishna performing in and around the Ennore creek and highlighted the environmental damage done to the creek by the power plant in that region. The music video trended on YouTube India for a week after its release becoming the first Carnatic song to trend on YouTube. The song's title contained the word "Poromboke" which formerly meant land of the commons but has become a popular swear word. The music video also garnered attention for combining Tamil slang dialect with carnatic music. The song is a raga-malika and is based on the ragas Anandabhairavi, Begada, Hamir Kalyani, Devagandhari, Salaga Bhairavi and Sindhu Bhairavi.[27][28]

Kodaikanal Still Won't[29]

Krishna collaborated with rap and gaana kuthu artists in this multi-genre music video in protest of multinational Unilever's double standards and its refusal to apply the globally accepted environmental standards in India. Directed by film maker Rathindra Prasad, this was a second video after the original Kodaikanal Won't video which protested Unilever's 2001 dumping of toxic mercury in the South Indian hill town of Kodaikanal, which is said to have poisoned its workers and the forest.[30]

Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha (formerly Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha)

Krishna was part of the team that started this festival with an aim to heal art, and help art heal by opening art and artists to new audiences and different environments. The festival made its debut in January 2015 at Urur-Olcott Kuppam in Chennai. In 2016, it was designed also as a celebration to help relieve some of the trauma suffered by people hurt by the 2015 floods, and as a thanksgiving to the many who assisted with relief, rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Today, the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha is now Chennai Kalai Theruvizha, a new avatar that will begin exploring new locations around the city in collaboration with local communities.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Vidya Vanam - School For Underprivileged Children - Provide Schooling For Underprivileged Rural Indian Children". Vidya Vanam - School for Underprivileged children. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Vidya Vanam - School for underprivileged children". Vidya Vanam - School for Underprivileged children.
  4. ^ a b "Indian Classical Music Society of Chicago - T.M. Krishna".
  5. ^ "Sangeetha Sivakumar". www.facebook.com.
  6. ^ "Jnanarnava Trust - Home". jnanarnava.org. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  7. ^ https://www.firstpost.com/living/article-370-revoked-carnatic-vocalist-tm-krishna-responds-to-the-crisis-in-jammu-and-kashmir-through-poetry-music-7125401.html
  8. ^ https://thewire.in/culture/perumal-murugans-poem-in-solidarity-with-statues-set-to-music-by-t-m-krishna
  9. ^ Nath, Parshathy J.; Nath, Parshathy J. (18 January 2018). "An alternate space for art to thrive" – via www.thehindu.com.
  10. ^ "For the young, by the young". 2 November 2017 – via www.thehindu.com.
  11. ^ a b Vettiver Collective (14 January 2017). "Chennai Poromboke Paadal ft. TM Krishna" – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Govind, Ranjani (17 February 2016). "T.M. Krishna to lead a concert for equality in Bengaluru" – via www.thehindu.com.
  13. ^ Correspondent, Special. "Magsaysay award for Wilson, T.M. Krishna". The Hindu. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  14. ^ Ramanujam, Srinivasa (28 May 2019). "Every artist would love to be a gypsy in spirit, says TM Krishna". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  15. ^ Sivaramakrishnan, Murali (7 April 2018). "Reshaping Art review: The art world as a free space" – via www.thehindu.com.
  16. ^ "RESHAPING ART: Harnessing art for social change". ALEPH. 1 September 2018 – via Amazon.
  17. ^ http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/ms-understood-ms-subbulakshmi
  18. ^ "Make classical music accessible to the masses: Amartya Sen". 17 December 2013 – via www.thehindu.com.
  19. ^ Krishna, T. M. (21 April 2015). "A Southern Music: Exploring the Karnatik Tradition". Harpercollins – via Amazon.
  20. ^ RAMIN (1 September 2018). "ASHIS NANDY- A LIFE IN DISSENT". OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS – via Amazon.
  21. ^ "Book Review: Ashis Nandy: A Life in Dissent". 13 May 2018.
  22. ^ "-".
  23. ^ "Nationalism debate rages at Ramjas - Times of India".
  24. ^ "Crossing the line".
  25. ^ "T M Krishna – Dr. Ashok da Ranade Memorial Trust". ashokdaranade.org.
  26. ^ "Kumar Gandharva Memorial Lecture". 20 September 2014 – via www.thehindu.com.
  27. ^ "Here comes the Chennai Porombokkku Paadal - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  28. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj. "Notes from the south". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  29. ^ jhatkaa (29 June 2018). "Kodaikanal Still Won't" – via YouTube.
  30. ^ "Kodaikanal Won't– It still won't". 24 June 2018.
  • Iyengar, B.R.C., "Dulcet Tones", Kalasagaram, 2004
  • Kumar, S. Vinaya, "Seasoned Musician", The Hindu
  • Collection of T.M.Krishna songs On HI5SONGS
  • Nisshanka, "TM Krishna: Bravado and Loudness", Chennai Online

External links[edit]