T.N.Krishnan: A Legendary Musician Spanning Two Generations


By Vatsa Kumar

HOUSTON: As a young boy I have listened to Shri. Krishnan when he was just appearing in the Bangalore music scene as an accompanying artist to stalwarts such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Alathur Brothers and the like. That was also the time when Sri M.S. Goplakrishnan, Sri. Lalgudi Jayaraman and Sri. T. Chowdaiah were recognized as established artists. Over a period of time, I had the good fortune of meeting many of these great artists in concerts, but it took me almost six decades to meet Shri Krishnan and more interestingly listen to his live concert right here in Houston. The wait was well worth it because his daughter Viji Krishnan Natarajan and son Sriram Krishnan, who are also the senior most students of Prof. Krishnan were accompanying their guru and father in the concert. This was an unexpected joy to me and my prayers answered after decades of prayers and waiting.
The legendary trio performed at the Stafford Center on June 12, under the banner of Classical Arts Society Houston, a torch bearer that brings exceptional quality of music concerts to the music lovers of Houston. Pouring down rain and winds sweeping across the town did not deter the music enthusiastic audience who attended this concert. While I do not want to list every one of the items presented by the artists, I would just like to confine myself to share my personal experience of this concert.

Starting the concert in a traditional parampara of invocation to Lord Ganesha in raga Chakravaka, Sri Krishan carefully picked every composition that he presented. Sri Tyagaraja’s  Nada Thanu mani Sham in Chitta Ranjani and Sadashiva Bramhendrar’s Manasa sanchara re in raga Sama, descended like a meandering gentle river, and in contrast Raghu Vamsha Sudha in Kadana Kuthuhala, came down like a high velocity train. This was an item where one could notice the nimble fingers of the artists fluently run with great ease, speed and accuracy.
It was also noticeable that every kalpana swaram by Viji Krishnan or Sriram Krishnan was picked up by Sri Krishan who would then return it embellished and improvised. I could not help observe that he would carefully watch that his students are strictly adhering to his tradition and maintain the pristine quality of music he is known to deliver.  Muthu Swamy Deekshithar’s  ‘Meenakshi ‘mey mudam  dehi’  in raga Poorvi Kalyani was an apt inclusion at this concert, paying rich tribute to Sri Meenakshi, presiding deity at the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland.
Ragam, thanam and pallavi with Shanmukhapriya as the anchor ragam, brought out yet another facet of Sri Krishan’s extraordinary quality of music. Bowing technic during the thanam presentation was captivating. Starting the raga in the thara stayi is rarely adopted in concerts but that was the uniqueness of Krishnan’s concert.  Several ragas such as kapi, sindhubhairavi, shahana and others added richness to this segment of the concert. This high energy, mufti faced concert gently slowed down with a thillana in rag jonepuri followed by a short piece in madhyamavathi.
Sri. Nanda Kumar on the mridangam and Sri. Chandrasekara Sharma on the ghatam helped in keeping the concert in check. It was nice to see artists from two generations coming together to provide this well blended concert. It is said that Sri Krishnan is one of the few instrumentalists who can provide an unique experience to listeners and create in their minds nostalgic memories of a bygone era. Truly this was also my own experience.
Born in Kerala, Sri. Krishnan was a Professor of Music at a music college in Chennai and later, Dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Delhi. T N Krishnan’s sister N Rajam is a famous violin player in Hindustani tradition. Krishnan was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1974 and became a fellow of the academy in 2006.  He received the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1980. Krishnan was awarded the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992 by the Government of India.  He received the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award for the year 1999 given by The Indian Fine arts Society, Chennai.
We wish Sri. Krishnan long life and good health so he can continue to enrich the world of music with his charming violin playing for many more years.