Trichy Sankaran was born in Trichy in Madras state, India. By the age of 13, he was winning awards for his percussion performances, and the next year began participating in the annual Karnatak Music Festival. Sankaran accompanied the Karnatak musicians recording for EMI India between 1969 and 1971 (some of whom he recorded with again in the '80s). In 1971, Sankaran moved to Toronto and became founding director and professor of Indian Music Studies at York University, where he remained for decades. Sankaran has performed with Karnatak artists throughout North America, and has returned to India to tour annually. Through his numerous solo performances and broadcasts, Sankaran has raised the kanjira and mridanga to the status of solo instruments.
Sankaran has several of his own albums, has composed for the Evergreen Club (Toronto's contemporary gamelan group), and has toured internationally with various percussion ensembles: Nexus, World Drums, and Musaic. In 1998, he was granted an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Victoria in British Columbia.