TM Krishna speaks to TNM about this unique concert with 12 others where rasikas can catch a glimpse of the interactions between the artists.

TM Krishna's Friends in Concert showing him with fellow musicians
Features Music Friday, December 04, 2020 - 17:59

Many a time, we may wonder what personal conversations might have been like between artists. One may not have had the opportunity to find a spot at Café Les Deux Magots where famous intellectuals like Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and others rendezvoused, but one can surely find out what might have transpired between Carnatic singer TM Krishna and mridangam exponents Poongulam Subramaniam and B Sivaraman; or Carnatik singer Sangeetha Sivakumar and ghatam players Guruprasad and Chandrasekara Sharma.

What do artists talk about when not on a concert stage, what do they discuss during their breaks between concerts, what do we know about their friendships and their fights? Friends in Concert, a musical production put together by TM Krishna along with 12 other Carnatic artists, could be the beginning of the answer to that question.

“Most people don't realise that art is about relationships and sharing. It’s not just about performance. Life is about creating, sharing, bonding…” TM Krishna tells TNM. The germ of an idea for Friends in Concert began here. “Some think when artists don't have any work, they spend the time working on their art. That is not true. Art comes when there’s mental leisure. This is true for any art form,” TMK adds.

With lockdown pushing artists into isolation, TMK thought of an intervention, a way to break the creative void. “There are a lot of beautiful aspects to what happens before, after and during concerts. That’s where friendships are made. You see the relationship they share on stage. When two musicians don't get along, that also you see on stage… It is a very emotional thing and very difficult for me to articulate,” he explains.

It was this bond that TMK wanted to reignite and out came the idea. “I’ve had many wonderful relationships over the years with fellow artists and we thought of getting together. I suggested doing a musical together and everyone immediately agreed. Just practising, playing together… to trigger our own creative juices,” TMK shares.

Poongulam Subramaniam, a mridangam artist with over 40 years of experience, who is also part of Friends in Concert, talks about some of his memories from the '90s. “You see in the early '90s, Krishna, myself and a few other artists would gather at someone’s house in Mandaveli or Mylapore. AS Murali and his family would be there, Sriram Gangadharan would come… There would be 15 artists in one house practising, critiquing, fighting,” he laughs.

“Sometime, the fights would seem like it would be the end of friendship between the artists. But once we kept our instruments aside, we would immediately go back to being friends. We would take a break for snacks or go sit for some concert that’s happening… All of this changed during the 2000s. We all got busy with our own lives, whilst pursuing music. We’ve met during concerts but that’s it,” Subramaniam says, adding that Friends In Concert brought back those memories. “It felt like going back in time,” he says.

TMK agrees. “We had a beautiful time doing this production together. The first day we met, just the energy was huge! It is very much like many painters and one canvas.”

For violinist Dr R Hemalatha, this was an opportunity to bond with fellow artists. “Usually, we would get to meet only two or three artists while performing. And more often a violinist would not get an opportunity to interact with fellow violinists. Here, all that changed,” she says. Poongulam Subramaniam too talks about having had the rare opportunity of playing thaniyavarthanam (solo). “We’ve played namasankeerthanam many times but not thaniyavarthanam. I played along with B Sivaraman for about 15 to 20 minutes. It was a great experience for me.”

Kanjira expert Anirudh Athreya, who was more than excited just to be able to interact with fellow artists, says, “For me, this concept was more like an ode to the beautiful rapport we all share on and off-stage. So many years in the industry, you realise it's important to nurture relationships with your co-artistes to be able to bring out your best on stage.”

Hemalatha adds, “And for the rasikas (fans) this will definitely be unique. They don't really know if two artists are friends or how they interact with each other. This is an opening to all rasikas.” While Margazhi season this year will largely be online, Friends in Concert could be the start of something new.

“This is not a typical carnatic kutcheri. All elements of a concert will be there but presented in a slightly different manner,” TMK shares. “More importantly,” he continues, “the concert hierarchy has been removed. There is no main singer in this, we have played around with the idea that we are all equals. The music too is presented keeping that in mind. This will definitely challenge the concert hierarchy.”

The production itself is a percolation of the idea that relationships can exist beyond differences in ideologies. “Everyone is different. We have different ideologies and perceptions, but it is possible for us to have precious relationships beyond all that. I think it communicates the bond that musicians and artists share. It is this love and affection that makes for great art,” TMK asserts.

The two-hour musical production will be premiering at 7 pm on December 4. It will be available for viewing for 72 hours, ending at 7 pm on December 7. Tickets can be purchased at Rs 2,500 (single) here. A link to access the concert will be emailed to the registered email id.

“The production will not just be a musical treat but also a visual treat. We’d like to thank the Chennai rains and to know why, you should watch it,” TMK adds intrigue to his closing remark with a chuckle. 

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.