It was a night for celebrated names, including political ones – but it was telling that the truly politically engaged conversation of the night came from an artist.
But then TM Krishna is no ordinary artist.
One of the most radical, disruptive Carnatic musicians of our time, TM challenges – through his music, and in a riveting conversation last night – all the fixed verities that accompany venerable classical forms.
Because while the conversation at all times stayed rooted in his music, it took on the deeper questions of society and humanity that art necessarily grapples with. Questions of exclusion and inclusion. Of who sings – and doesn’t sing – a particular form. Of gatekeepers of art, and who they keep out.
Issues of religion, of caste, of gender.
He explained it most pithily, perhaps, when he talked of the distinction between classical and folk – a question TM posed to his late friend, celebrated ethnomusicologist Harold Powers.
“As folk goes up the social strata of any society, it becomes classical,” Powers replied.
It was an incredibly rich conversation, with insights into sonic language and art music; into the point of art; and why asking himself uncomfortable questions is inextricably linked with TM’s musical journey. “If art doesn’t change me as a person, what’s the point? I may still be a musician, but I won’t be an artist.”
Algebra, the Arts & Ideas Club brings together a fellowship of people who believe great cities are built not just on infrastructure but a life of the mind; who understand robust and liberal societies need the oxygen of great conversation and nuanced thinking.
At a time when we are increasingly surrounded by rage and noise, Algebra is a live and continuous space for people to come together for a genuine exchange of ideas and exposure to issues; where new seeds could be sparked, fresh perspectives formed, and intelligent connections made.
Algebra – the Arts and Ideas Club is designed to host almost 35 engagements over the year with topline thinkers and practitioners from almost every discipline that impacts human affairs: politics, economy, environment, spirituality, cinema, medicine, science, technology, music, media, literature, the arts, sports, people’s movements, et al.