Emphasising that the central role of music criticism is to keep the art in good health, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said on Sunday that sabhas should keep in mind that “we need an informed, knowledgeable, robust culture of criticism by experts as well as by lay people.”

Addressing a function organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha to felicitate SVK (S.V. Krishnamurthy), the music critic of The Hindu, Mr. Ram said only those who could not understand its role had complained about music criticism.

He said many musicians and sabhas were “thin-skinned” and “not used to robust criticism that musicians in western countries get all the time whether they like it or not.”

“They want only favourable reviews, but that is decidedly not The Hindu's expectation,” he said, citing the guidelines evolved by the newspaper in consultation with critics for reviewing concerts and dance performances.

He said the critic was an individual expert rasika and writer on music and The Hindu chose “its critics and respected their musical knowledge, integrity, independence, judgement and writing style.”

Pointing out the inevitability of “subjective element” forming part of criticism, he said it would not matter as long as the critics made it clear to the readers the basis of the judgement and wrote insightfully, fairly and interestingly. Describing SVK as a man of tremendous integrity and honesty, Mr. Ram said, “Nobody can make SVK change his opinion of a particular concert or the gifts of the particular musician.”

“There are people who have complained over the years. That is because they do not understand the role of music criticism,” he said, adding that SVK never courted popularity and stuck to core classical values.

Mr. Ram said SVK, the son of humour writer SVV, was a major contributor to the declining tradition of humorous writing. His family had a 110-year-old association with the 132-year-old newspaper.

Mr. Ram praised SVK for going beyond day-to-day journalism and making an enduring contribution to the field through his books, particularly his four-volume ‘Know your Thyagaraja.'

Mr. SVK was given the Thyagaraja Seva Ratna Award instituted by P. Vijyakumar Reddy and Preetha Reddy in memory of late Obul Reddy and Gnanamba. The award carries a citation and Rs.1.5 lakh.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. SVK gratefully acknowledged the support of The Hindu, besides the friendship of Obul Reddy who was instrumental in publishing his book on Thyagaraja.

He wanted all the sabhas to celebrate Thyagaraja Jayanthi on May 4 every year.

Ms. Preetha Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals, said it was Mr. SVK who inspired her husband to follow the family tradition of helping sabhas and musicians.

President of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Nalli Kuppusamy Chetti, general secretary Y. Prabhu and M. Murali of Sri Krishna Sweets spoke.