“I just went full blast like I would go anywhere”

It was a totally different experience for people in Jaffna last Sunday as Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna, the first musician of note from India in nearly three decades, enthralled the audience for two hours and fifty minutes. The Veerasingham Hall was packed to capacity as the veteran rendered one composition after another leaving the listeners spellbound, barely 10 hours after a back-breaking, 12-hour bus ride from Colombo.

Over the next few days, he had equally mesmerised different audiences at the Central College, Kilinochchi, and the Urban Council Hall, Vavuniya.

“In Jaffna, I sang as I would sing in Chennai. I sang the raagam, thanam, pallavi … the works. The reception was fabulous. I was initially not sure how many people will stay back till late evening, till around 8.45 p.m. … Jaffna was the heaviest of the three concerts. I just went full blast like I would go anywhere … There was a lot of enthusiasm in all three places,” he said. Comparing that with his concert in Colombo in 2010 (in memory of Neelan Thiruchelvam), he said the Colombo and Jaffna experiences were “pretty similar.”

Krishna was impressed by the fact that the Music School in Jaffna (Ramanathan Academy) was fully functional and discussed with Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ashok K. Kantha how the school could be developed further. “When I went there, there were 200 students in that hall. They were like students in any other music school — same level of enthusiasm, happiness … Developing that institution to a world-class one is something we should do. Because the institution has a history [Maharajapuram Santhanam headed the institution till the early 1980s] … If there is any way in which, we in India can also work with people here to build this institution, it will be great,” he said.

Krishna wanted to clarify that this support should not be viewed from a political standpoint. “This is about the people, and preserving their cultural moorings. People everywhere should support this.”

Emphasising the need to nurture talent because an institution was not merely “instruments, tables, chairs and buildings,” he said that now, once students reached a certain level of proficiency, they could not go any further. This was because neither the teacher nor the student could manage the exposure required to reach the next higher level. “So we have to create special programmes that can support this institution and the students,” he said. He was willing to work with the Indian and Sri Lankan authorities on this.

Hub of culture

Jaffna can regain its stature as a hub of culture with the right inputs to institutions like the Academy, he said. The optimist in him sees the future thus: 15 years from now, like in the 1930s, musicians from India will travel and perform in Jaffna. “I hope we get world-class musicians from Jaffna,” Krishna said.

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