In Defense of Musical Excellence and Cultural Dialogue: Reflections on TM Krishna, MS Subbulakshmi, and Carnatic Music

In the recent uproar surrounding the conferment of an award to TM Krishna by the Music Academy, the discourse has become clouded with misinterpretations and misplaced criticisms. As the great-grandson of MS Subbulakshmi (MSS), I find it imperative to address the nuanced complexities of this debate.

Firstly, it is crucial to understand that acknowledging TM Krishna’s musical prowess does not equate to an endorsement of all his socio-political stances. The decision to honor him is rooted in his significant and sustained contributions to Carnatic music, a fact emphasized by the Academy’s president, N Murali.

Critics have raised concerns about TM Krishna’s past statements, particularly regarding MS Subbulakshmi. However, it is essential to recognize that these remarks stem from a genuine desire to engage in constructive dialogue about the history and legacy of Carnatic music. As MSS’s great-grandson, I believe she would have welcomed such discourse, viewing it as an opportunity for mutual understanding and growth.

Furthermore, attempts to conflate an anti-Periyar stance with Carnatic music culture or Tamil culture are misguided. Appreciating Carnatic music does not inherently align with Brahminism, and such assertions only serve to perpetuate divisive narratives.

Regarding MS Subbulakshmi herself, it is important to acknowledge her resilience and independence as a trailblazing artist. She would have engaged directly with TM Krishna, fostering open dialogue rather than relying on superficial custodians of her legacy.

In moving forward, true artistes, like Ranjani-Gayatri, should strive to democratize the Carnatic music tradition from within. This entails expanding outreach to diverse audiences and addressing the inherent inequities within the classical music landscape.

Ultimately, let us embrace the complexities of this discourse with nuance and openness, honoring both musical excellence and the spirit of constructive dialogue. As MSS’s great-grandson, I envision a future where the Carnatic music community thrives through collaboration, inclusivity, and mutual respect.


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