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Ramon Magsaysay Award for T.M. Krishna
CHENNAI: Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna has been chosen for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award. The list of awardees was announced by the Foundation on Wednesday. Mr. Krishna has been chosen for his contribution to "social inclusiveness in culture."

Mr. Krishna is a student of late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

He felt that Carnatic music was "a caste-dominated art that fostered an unjust, hierarchic order by effectively excluding the lower classes from sharing in a vital part of India’s cultural legacy,’’ the citation said. "He questioned the politics of art; widened his knowledge about the arts of the dalits ("untouchables") and non-Brahmin communities; and declared he would no longer sing in ticketed events at a famous, annual music festival in Chennai to protest the lack of inclusiveness. Recognizing that dismantling artistic hierarchies can be a way of changing India’s divisive society, Krishna devoted himself to democratizing the arts as an independent artist, writer, speaker, and activist," the citation added.

"In electing Thodur Madabusi Krishna to receive the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions, breaking barriers of caste and class to unleash what music has to offer not just for some but for all".

In the 1990s, he was president of the Youth Association for Classical Music, that took Carnatic music to the youth and the public schools. To further diffuse classical music, he is at work on a curriculum for teaching Carnatic music in schools and communities that have no exposure to it. In 2004, Krishna and a colleague created Sumanasa Foundation,that identified gifted, rural youth who lacked the opportunities to develop their talents, and brought them to Chennai to train under well-known artists at the same time that they were getting a college education. In 2008, Krishna and a fellow artistes started the Svanubhava movement to bring together students of diverse social backgrounds to interact with renowned artistes and learn about different art forms, in a programme of lecture-demonstrations, film showings, and performances. Held annually in Chennai and featured in various cities, this unique platform has involved thousands of young people from some thirty schools and is now a movement directed by young artistes and students and supported by India’s Ministry of Culture,’’ the citation said.

"During 2011-2013, Krishna brought his passion and artistry to war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka, the first Carnatic musician to tour that region in three decades, and launched two festivals to promote "culture retrieval and revival" in that country. More recently, he conducted, with a prominent environmentalist, a free festival of "art healing" on the beach of Besant Nagar in Chennai that brought together a divided community of dalits, fisherfolk, and upper-class residents, to commune in performances that richly combined musical and dance forms formerly exclusive to the upper class and the dalits,’’ it further said.