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Protests are most vibrant for society: T.M. Krishna

Close look: T.M. Krishna’s book is an in-depth account of the process involved in the making of the mrdangam.

Close look: T.M. Krishna’s book is an in-depth account of the process involved in the making of the mrdangam.   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

T.M. Krishna on the power of the Constitution, hypocrisy in the world of music, and the Dalit community that makes mrdangams

The history, sociology and the techniques of making the mrdangam is the central vein of Carnatic musician Thodur Madabusi Krishna’s new book Sebastian & Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers.

In an interview with The Hindu, Krishna says that he started working on this book four years ago in a continuation of his first book, A Southern Music. His first book was a discovery: of the details of aesthetic, history and musicology of Carnatic music. The book was also a critique on Carnatic music. While Krishna was writing his first book, he realised that he had forgotten to talk about the instruments. “In some ways my mind is limited. I realised I was failing. And [it is] in this realisation of failure, [that] I thought of understanding the world of mrdangam music and the makers,” says the music virtuoso.

Also read: Kalakshetra foundation revokes permission for T.M. Krishna's book release event

Step-by-step description

The book is an in-depth account of every step of the process involved in the making of the mrdangam. It covers the making of the percussion instrument, right from the slaughterhouse where its ‘skin’ is chosen until the last stage when the instrument is tuned. It also traces the growth of urbanisation as the book tracks different geographical locations and the changes in the instrument’s manufacture, dependent as the makers were on the artistes who used the mrdangam.

Also read: T.M. Krishna did not tell us about the scope of his book: Palghat Mani Iyer’s family

Extensive fieldwork

It took Krishna more than a year just to transcribe his interviews with the mrdangam makers. He travelled around the four southern States of India to meet them. “I did a lot of field trips and was also simultaneously reading about the Dalit community who are the mrdangam makers,” says Krishna. The musician also travelled to places where different elements that make up a mrdangam are sourced. The book is particularly relevant today, as several news reports that document the opposition of cow slaughter come out on a daily basis. Krishna’s book exposes the hypocrisy of those who oppose cow slaughter, yet play or enjoy the percussion instrument.

Krishna is best known for his unorthodox approach to music. “I don’t like using the words traditional or purist. I sing raga music which many people might consider traditional or pure but many might not,” says Krishna emphasising the Carnatic musicians singing in films does not make the art form less traditional. “If [the] art form remains claustrophobic and is only performed by certain communities then the art form will remain limited,” says Krishna.

While Krishna travels across countries for his concerts, he believes that they way audience receive his music is completely different when it comes to every individual. “Look at Mumbai. The way a person from Matunga listens to Carnatic music is completely different from the way a person from Dharavi or in south Mumbai listens to it. Even within one city there is cultural diversity of listening to music,” says Krishna expressing that he finds this the most beautiful part of society.

The Magsaysay award winner has always believed in taking music to masses. His recent trip to Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh protest was an overwhelming experience for Krishna. “To see these wonderful women sitting and celebrating the protest brings the democracy alive. The sheer love for our country is felt at Shaheen Bagh,” says Krishna who hopes that the protest would bring in a transformation in Indian electoral politics. He adds while most people believe that protests are all about screaming and shouting, at Shaheen Bagh one feels that protest is a happy one. “In protests, democracy comes alive. In protests we are alive. In protests we sing, dance, write poetry and dramas. According to me, protests are the most vibrant thing for society,” Krishna says.

Lauding students

Commenting on the recent police action at Delhi universities, Krishna says that the country should be thankful to the students who have put their lives at stake in order to protect the Constitution. “They want to ensure that India remains a secular and socialist republic in letter and spirit,” he emphasises.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:27:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/protests-are-most-vibrant-for-society/article30908008.ece

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