T.M. Krishna: ‘Conversations on various faiths have to be nurtured’

It is appalling that a performer should not be allowed to perform in a temple based on religious or unbelief, says Carnatic singer TM Krishna

It is appalling that a performer should not be allowed to perform in a temple based on religious or unbelief, says Carnatic singer TM Krishna

Carnatic singer, composer and author TM Krishna will perform verses of Sree Narayana Guru at Hosanna Mount, Pala on April 9. Hosanna Mount is dedicated to the memory of Joseph Pulikkunnel, writer and social reformer.

The concert is organized by the Backwaters Collective, Nool Archives, Hosanna Mount and Uru Art Harbor and is supported by DC Books.

Mr Krishna talks to The Hindu on the significance of chanting the Guru’s verses against the backdrop of a wave of caste and religion-based discrimination against performers in certain temples in Kerala.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

What do you think about performers of different religions who are not allowed to perform in some temples in Kerala?

It is appalling that an artist is not allowed to perform in a temple because of his/her religion or non-belief. A temple is considered as a place where, as far as culture and music are concerned, people of different religions or no faith at all have participated in art and culture. It is shocking that this is happening in Kerala.

In that context, your concert at Hosanna Mount has an important symbolism…

Cultural conversations and conversations about different religions need to be nurtured. No religion is independent. Religions have always talked to each other, have always shared with each other, there may have been differences of opinion. But there has been that coming together in commonality. After all, every belief is about finding goodness in yourself. I think Guru’s voice becomes very important in that context. I’ve already listed verses where he talks about who is god? Is it Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna? So when he says who it is, he says it’s everything and it’s nothing. We have this concert where religions are going to mingle.

Do you sing only the verses of the Guru?

It has now been three to four years since we started the ‘Guru Project’ to bring the Guru’s compositions, rather poetry, to the Carnatic music concert platform. It started with the first concert in Bombay (Mumbai). My concert in Pala will mainly be about the Guru’s compositions on various subjects. In his poetry you see the utter belief in a deity or a goddess, and at the same time he is philosophical. You can see the undermining of the mainstream hegemonic systems. Guru is one who has brought the social conversation and the spiritual conversation together and has not run away from either.

Many compositions in Carnatic music are dedicated to gods of the Hindu pantheon. Shouldn’t we broaden the repertoire of Carnatic music?

In the past three years, together with Perumal Murugan Saraswathy Nagarajan, we have brought many Tamil compositions, which are about nature, social themes, such as discrimination, manual scavenging, etc., on the Carnatic music platform. There are compositions written by Islamic Sufi saints, compositions about Jesus, in Tamil and Malayalam. It’s also about dialect. Be it Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada or Telugu, the dialect belongs to the privileged. Even the dialect has to be challenged. In fact, Perumal Murugan uses the Kongunadu dialect, which is generally not used in Carnatic music. We need to broaden content, dialect, multi-religiosity and contemporaryness in Carnatic music.

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