T. M. Krishna

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T. M. Krishna
T.M. Krishna (TMK) at Rajarani Music Festival-2016, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.JPG
T.M. Krishna at Rajarani Music Festival, Bhubaneswar, Odisha in Jan 2016
Background information
Also known as TMK
Born (1976-01-22) January 22, 1976 (age 42)
Chennai, India

Tamil Nadu,

Genres Indian classical
Occupation(s) Singer, Lecturer, Author, Activist
Years active 1988–present
Website http://www.tmkrishna.com

T.M. Krishna (Thodur Madabusi Krishna) is a Carnatic music vocalist, author, speaker, and public intellectual. Born in Chennai on January 22, 1976.,[1] his 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.

Krishna speaks and writes about issues affecting the human condition and about matters cultural, and has been published in most leading print and online publications. He has started and is involved in many organizations whose work is spread across the spectrum of music and culture. He has co-authored Voices Within: Carnatic Music – Passing on an Inheritance, a book dedicated to the past masters of Karnatik music. His book A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story, published by Harper Collins in 2013 was said to be a first-of-its-kind philosophical, aesthetic and socio-political exploration of Karnatik Music, and for this he was awarded the 2014 Tata Literature Award for Best First Book in the non-fiction category. His long-form essay MS understood,[2] for The Caravan was featured in The Caravan Book of Profiles, as one of their “twelve definitive profiles” and has been translated into Tamil and published as a book ‘Katrinile Karainda Tuyar’ by Kalachuvadu Publications.

He is part of the team of activists that started the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Festival[3] and the Svanubhava[4] initiative, and has been part of inspiring collaborations, such as the Chennai Poromboke Paadal [5] with environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman, performances with the Jogappas[6] (transgender musicians) and bringing 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[7] (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.

Family and Early life

Krishna's mother, Prema Rangachari, an educator who runs a school[8] for tribal and underprivileged students in Anaikatti - Tamil Nadu, was also a Carnatic music graduate. His father T.M. Rangachari had an ear for Carnatic classical music.[9] His grand uncle T.T. Krishnamachari (former Indian finance minister and an industrialist) was one of the founding members of the Madras Music Academy.[9] Krishna lives with his wife Sangeetha Sivakumar, a reputed carnatic musician,[10] and his two daughters in Chennai.

Krishna began his musical training under Bhagavathula Seetharama Sharma. He later underwent special Ragam Thanam Pallavi grooming under Chingleput Ranganathanand then came under the guidance of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer from 1996.

He received his B.A. degree in economics from Vivekananda College, affiliated college of the University of Madras.


Reshaping Art (2018)[11]

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.[12] The book was published by Aleph Book Company.

A Southern Music (2013)[13]

In 2013, he authored a book 'A Southern Music – The Karnatik Story' and it was released by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Chairman of Kalakshetra, Gopalkrishna Gandhi.[14] It discusses the philosophy, aesthetics, sociology and history of Carnatic music. The book was published by Harper Collins and was awarded the 2014 Tata Literature Award for Best First Book in the non-fiction category.

Voices Within (2007)

Bombay Jayashri, T.M. Krishna and Mythili Chandrasekhar published 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)[15]

This Oxford University Press publication is a reflection on Ashis Nandy's life work as a thinker. Krishna has co-authored this collection of long form essays along with noted social scientists, humanists, and a novelist.[16]


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 delivered lectures at a variety of institutions, including leading universities across the world. Noteworthy among these lectures are:

  • Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture (2018) [17]
  • AK Ramanujan Lecture (2018) [18]
  • Professor Ram Bapat Memorial Lecture (2017) [19]
  • Dr. Ashok Da Ranade Memorial Lecture (2016) [20]
  • Kumar Gandharva Memorial Lecture (2014) [21]

Initiatives and Collaborations

Chennai Poromboke Paadal[5]

The Chennai Poromboke Paadal music video was released on January 14, 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.[22][23]

Kodaikanal Still Won't[24]

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.[25]

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. ^ "Vidya Vanam - School For Underprivileged Children - Provide Schooling For Underprivileged Rural Indian Children". Vidya Vanam - School for Underprivileged children. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Nath, Parshathy J.; Nath, Parshathy J. (18 January 2018). "An alternate space for art to thrive" – via www.thehindu.com. 
  4. ^ "For the young, by the young". 2 November 2017 – via www.thehindu.com. 
  5. ^ a b Vettiver Collective (14 January 2017). "Chennai Poromboke Paadal ft. TM Krishna" – via YouTube. 
  6. ^ Govind, Ranjani (17 February 2016). "T.M. Krishna to lead a concert for equality in Bengaluru" – via www.thehindu.com. 
  7. ^ Correspondent, Special. "Magsaysay award for Wilson, T.M. Krishna". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  8. ^ "Vidya Vanam - School for underprivileged children". Vidya Vanam - School for Underprivileged children. 
  9. ^ a b "Indian Classical Music Society of Chicago - T.M. Krishna". 
  10. ^ "Sangeetha Sivakumar". www.facebook.com. 
  11. ^ "RESHAPING ART: Harnessing art for social change". ALEPH. 1 September 2018 – via Amazon. 
  12. ^ Sivaramakrishnan, Murali (7 April 2018). "Reshaping Art review: The art world as a free space" – via www.thehindu.com. 
  13. ^ Krishna, T. M. (21 April 2015). "A Southern Music: Exploring the Karnatik Tradition". Harpercollins – via Amazon. 
  14. ^ "Make classical music accessible to the masses: Amartya Sen". 17 December 2013 – via www.thehindu.com. 
  15. ^ RAMIN (1 September 2018). "ASHIS NANDY- A LIFE IN DISSENT". OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS – via Amazon. 
  16. ^ "Book Review: Ashis Nandy: A Life in Dissent". 13 May 2018. 
  17. ^ "-". 
  18. ^ "Nationalism debate rages at Ramjas - Times of India". 
  19. ^ "Crossing the line". 
  20. ^ "T M Krishna – Dr. Ashok da Ranade Memorial Trust". ashokdaranade.org. 
  21. ^ "Kumar Gandharva Memorial Lecture". 20 September 2014 – via www.thehindu.com. 
  22. ^ "Here comes the Chennai Porombokkku Paadal - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  23. ^ Rangan, Baradwaj. "Notes from the south". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  24. ^ jhatkaa (29 June 2018). "Kodaikanal Still Won't" – via YouTube. 
  25. ^ "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

  • SVANUBHAVA http://www.svanubhava.org/
  • Matrka Website
  • Jnanarnava Website
  • Other news reviews and articles
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