Thiruvananthapuram: At 9.30 am on Saturday, T.M. Krishna will be up on a stage at VJT Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, talking about freedom and responsibility with culture critic Sadanand Menon on the backdrop of Kovalam Literary Festival being held at state capital. In one-liners, he gives a gist of his speech: fear mongering happening on the idea of freedom, freedom becoming something you should be scared about. That a carnatic musician should voice such thoughts has been hugely criticised by friends and strangers, but that has not stopped him from doing so for the past seven years.
However, the Mr Krishna insists that he is not a nationalist despite the theme of his talk. “I've said this before, I am not a nationalist. I don't know what it means. I smell this land, I feel this land and I smile when I think of this land. What that means or what name you are giving it is up to you. I don't know what nationalism you are talking about when half the people who voted in Tamil Nadu did not even know who Narendra Modi was," says Krishna.
It didn't start 'one fine day', he says. All the thoughts that entered his head - on caste and religion and race and gender that separated man from man - he has witnessed them growing up in a privileged class in Tamil Nadu.
Though much ridiculed, Mr Krishna, a Magsaysay award winner for 'social inclusiveness in culture', is happy that he has been able to create a stir with his talks. His many writings and speeches on caste in carnatic music, the dominating highbrow in different areas including religion, gender or race, happened through music.
“It is not that art form doesn't allow you to experience vulnerability,” he says.
One of the most common discriminations in carnatic music comes in gender. “There are mridangamists and violinists who won't play with women vocalists. There are vocalists who won't perform with women accompanists and all these people are accommodated. Even women singers who reach fame will not have other women accompanists. The same is the case in Kerala as well,” he says.
He also refuses to call the music divine or spiritual. “Every word I say has nothing in contradiction to the music I sing.”