Trippunitura Narayanan Krishnan was born on October 6, 1928 into an illustrious family of musicians acclaimed in the Carnatic and Hindustani traditions of Indian classical music. Both his parents, A. Narayana Iyer and Ammini Ammal, hailed from families whose musical lineage can be traced back five generations. Music was an integral part of his childhood in Trippunitura in the southern Indian state of Kerala where his father and guru A. Narayana Iyer was an eminent music educator. Narayana Iyer was an extraordinary teacher and strict disciplinarian who spared no effort in developing Krishnan's innate talent.
By his eighth birthday Krishnan was already being hailed as a child prodigy in Kerala, performing in temple festivals, accompanying visitingvidwans from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, and catching the attention of the music literati. At this point Krishnan was introduced to the renowned musician and patron Allepey Parthasarathy Iyengar who recognized the enormous talent of the young prodigy and affectionately guided Krishnan and introduced him to all the eminent musicians of the day. This led to an apprenticeship under the legendary musician Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer under whom Krishnan shaped and developed his performance style.
In 1943 Krishnan traveled to Chennai, capital city of Tamil Nadu and epicenter of classical music in South India, to accompany the flute virtuoso T. R. Mahalingam in concert. That landmark performance quickly led to more concert offers and in a matter of weeks the young boy from Kerala had become the star accompanist to legendary musicians such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Musiri Subramaniya Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, G. N. Balasubramaniam, Madurai Mani Iyer, Alathur Brothers and the maestro flautist T. R. Mahalingam. "Master" Krishnan, as he was fondly addressed by fans and senior musicians alike, immediately endeared himself to the audiences with his virtuosity and youthful charm. The love and adoration he received from the people of Chennai was so overwhelming that Krishnan permanently settled there.
Krishnan's music represents the purest expression of the Carnatic tradition. His emphasis on melodic clarity, spectral fidelity, and a bold and emphatic bowing technique are unparalleled in his field. His instrumental style captures the essence of the gayaka experience which delivers the music with all the depth and emotion of a human voice.
In the midst of his concert commitments Krishnan has also carried on his father's tradition of teaching music to a number of students, both in the traditional gurukula setting and more formal academic environments. In 1965, at the invitation of Musiri Subramaniya Iyer, a veteran musician and music educator, he joined the State Music College in Chennai as Professor of Music and subsequently served as its Principal. He also went on to serve as Dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Delhi.
Prof. T. N. Krishnan has traveled the world, performing and promoting Indian classical music for the past sixty years. He has visited the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Australia, the former Soviet Republics, the Middle and Far East not only performing and enthralling audiences but also conducting music workshops for teaching and promoting awareness of Indian classical music.
T. N. Krishnan has been closely associated with several national and international institutions engaged in the preservation and development of the arts. He has served as the Vice-Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy, one of India's foremost cultural agencies involved in nurturing and supporting the traditional arts and crafts. He has also chaired various committees for the All India Radio and state universities and academies.
T. N. Krishnan has received numerous awards and honors over the many years. Most notable among them are:
- Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awards from the Government of India
- National Artist of the All India Radio
- National Award (1974) from the Sangeet Natak Academy
- Sangeetha Kalanidhi (1980) from the Madras Music Academy
- Asthana Vidwan of the Tirumala Tirupathi Temple
Today, T. N. Krishnan is one of the elder statesmen of the classical music community in India. His rich and vibrant style has been admired and adopted by a number of the younger musicians including his daughter, Viji Krishnan Natarajan, and son, Sriram Krishnan, who carry on his musical legacy.
Prof. Krishnan continues to perfect his craft with boundless energy and curiosity. He and his wife, Kamala, continue to travel the globe performing, educating and promoting awareness and appreciation of the rich culture and musical traditions of India.