Advocate and musicologist S. Vijayaraghavan's exposition on GNB was a rewarding experience. At the GNB Day he gave a speech on G.N. Balasubramaniam on why he was considered the musician of the century, delving into various aspects of his music.
GNB came as meteor but stayed on till the end like a star. He did not undergo formal training - he was a Swayambhu, blessed by the Lord to spread music in this world. It was a humble beginning for him as a young lad from Tripilicane when stalwarts such as Ariyakkudi, TNR and Maharajapuram were ruling the roost. GNB held all his seniors in great esteem and yet created a style for himself.
Path of success
After the 1928 concert where he substituted for Musiri, at Mylapore, there was no turning back, and GNB virtually became a cult. He was an authentic genius with erudition garnered over several births. Such was the rapidity with which GNB strode the path of success that he was pitched along with the seniors in the Music Academy season in 1937 - a record of sorts. GNB's concerts were mostly extempore. His ideals were high and for him excellence was always a moving target.
GNB struck a rapport with Palghat Mani Iyer and the concerts that involved the duo were a sell out. The interesting thing is that both would sit together and set up kritis and playing styles. Palghat Mani Iyer, coming out of Academy after playing for GNB in 1946, was heard saying "For others I play but in the case of GNB, he sings for me."
GNB never compromised in singing raga alapanas extensively, thus reviving the good old days of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, Madurai Pushpavanam, Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar notwithstanding his great respect for Ariayakkudi's music. He described Iyengar's music as the Gita of Sangitham.
GNB paid equal attention to laskhiya and lakshana thereby making his music enjoyable for both the learned and the uninitiated. He broke the myth that commencing a concert with Sahana would end up a failure, by singing Tyagaraja's 'Eeevasudha' as the first piece and making the concert a success.
GNB was equally at home in rare ragas such as Pratapa Varali, Gavathi, Dakka, Malavi (then rare), as he was with, say, Thodi, Kalyani or Bhairavi. His brighas were never plain flat notes but had gamakas in right doses.
GNB never considered his music to be extraordinary. Such was his humility! The truth is that his music was outstanding. Taking into account all these aspects should we not dare to split the history of Carnatic music of this century as 'Before GNB' and 'After GNB'?