Awam ki Awaz: Rare musical evening striking ‘politically correct’ note

New Delhi | After a controversy that surrounded his concert, the mellifluous voice of leading Carnatic singer T M Krishna finally enthralled Delhiites on a breezy Saturday evening which witnessed a rare blend of politics and music.

“I am here to sing today, not speak,” said the vocalist when asked by the host Sohail Hashmi if he would like to say something before his performance.

Krishna, whose concert in the city was scrapped by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) following an alleged troll campaign by right-wingers, performed here at the Garden of Five Senses on the invitation of the AAP government for the event titled ‘Aawam ki Awaz’. The musical polyglot sang in multiple Indian languages, rendering a hymn that is part of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram songs, verses from social-reformer Basava and compositions by poet-saints Kanaka Dasa and Kabir.

“The spirit of the day has transformed over the few days and keeping up with it, I am going to try and see if I can bring multiple voices, multiple languages, multiple traditions and multiple religions in the concert,” he said. The who’s who of politics, music connoisseurs and commoners thronged the venue to stand in solidarity with the singer and register their voice against any threat to freedom of expression.

A number of political leaders were present on the occasion, from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, AAP leader Raghav Chaddha, former Delhi HC chief justice AP Shah, political activist Aruna Roy and many others. “Enjoy the music, but your coming today in such a large number is a very big statement,” said the chief minister.

“The statement is that this country belongs to everyone Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs… I don’t think any other country in the whole world which has the kind of diversity we have here in India. This is what makes us special and this is what we need to preserve,” he said and congratulated the deputy chief minister and Sahitya Kala Parishad for pulling off the event in such a short notice. Kejriwal also thanked the singer for accepting the government’s invite and performing at the event.

Historian and activist Sohail Hasmi said it was because of Krishna’s attempt to “liberate the music from the control of handful of people” that his concert was cancelled by the AAI and SPIC-MACAY. “…there are people who are worried about classical music becoming the property of the people. Cancellation of his concert springs from this fear that more and more people would get involved with creative process and it will become very difficult to control them,” said Hashmi.

That said, in retrospective, he admitted that the cancellation of the concert had only helped the cause, and said there was no newspaper that had not written about Krishna in the past few days. He also applauded the AAP government for steeping in and organising this event. “The response shows how politically correct, culturally correct and how absolutely timely this decision was,” he added.

Though not a music lover, 29-year-old Anurag Khatri said, he was delighted with the concert and said he was there for the politics of it. “This was one rare concert for which me and my friend had not to fight about on attending together. She is a big fan of TM Krishna and I am all for freedom of expression and by attending the event wanted to tell that no one has the right to curb that.

“So yes we agreed on going to this concert together instantly. In fact, while coming here we didn’t fight on which song to play also. It had to be Faiz’s revolutionary Urdu nazm ‘Hum Dekhenge’. You know about it, right,” he asked as his friend softly started humming the song.

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