Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna's concert for Mylapore Fine Arts on Monday provided clear evidence that he is a hardworking musician. He has a full voice which he uses to good effect across the octaves. He began the concert with the Ata tala Bhairavi varnam Viriboni. While the varnam was presented well, the ornamentations that he chose to add to phrases were probably unnecessary. It is like trying to improve a composition that cannot be improved upon. This was followed by Manavyiala in Nalinakanti. He selected an uncharacteristic and leisurely madhyama kala for this kriti. Yet he managed to keep the energy high for the kriti and the imaginative kalpanaswaras that followed.
Raga Shuddha Dhanyasi was taken up for alapana elaboration. A striking feature of the alapana was the gamaka laden phrases presented with azhutham. The Swati Tirunal kriti Samodam in Mishra Chapu was followed by kalpanaswaras of which the vilamba kala swaras were especially beautiful. Balamuralikrishna loves raga alapana and the next piece Koteeswara Iyer's Velum Mayilume was preceded by a detailed alapana of the 67th melakarta Sucharitra. Beyond a point, elaboration in certain ragas is reduced to an exercise in permutations and combinations of the scale.
The kriti was rendered evocatively with a great deal of nidhanam. The main piece for the evening was Meenakshi me mudam in raga Gamakakriya (Poorvikalyani). The artiste presented a detailed and impressive exposition of the raga in the alapana. Muthuswamy Dikshitar's composition was presented in all its grandeur and Balamuralikrishna's poise with the vilambakala kriti was outstanding.
The concert concluded with the Javali Vagaladi in Behag, which was again rendered with a supreme sense of aesthetics.
The violinist V. Sanjeev presented a competent picture of himself in all the raga alapanas and kalpanaswaras but was almost missing during the kritis. Shertalai Ananthakrishna provided excellent mridangam accompaniment. He displayed a good sense of music in choosing the right balance of nadai and korvais while accompanying. There is an increasing tendency of upapakavadya percussionists to be lazy most of the concert and show up only during the tani. K.V. Gopalakrishnan on the kanjira did just that. The tani in 2 kalai Adi talam was adequate but not outstanding.
The feature that stood out in Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna's concert was his impeccable kalapramanam.
His maturity as an artiste was evident in the selection of the perfect speed of rendition for every piece that he presented. He, however, needs to limit his penchant for high speed phrases. While he has developed the capability for them, it does not sit comfortably with his solid voice and sounds jerky. Mastering the ability to lighten the voice for the higher speeds without jarring tonal variation is possible but challenging.
Someone needs to advise our sabhas on the aesthetics of stage design. The new backdrop and wings in beige and brown with elaborate floral design clashed with the bright yellow roof over the stage platform and navy blue carpet on the stage. Irrelevant? No. These small elements add up to the overall concert experience for the audience.
(Viswanath Parasuram is an educator and founder of Karadi Tales. He is also a vocalist and mridangist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)