Every song that was rendered had a link.
Poet composer Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna’s kutcheri is always an event. This was true in more respects than one when the titan enthralled his audience in a rare performance for Hamsadhwani on New Year Day. Once again, his rasikas marvelled at his voice that defies belief, description or definition.
Every song Balamuralikrishna recited that evening was meant to commemorate an occasion. ‘Vathapi Ganapathimbhaje,’ the opening invocation in raagam Hamsadhwani was his way of acknowledging the sabha that has served rasikas for well over two decades. It was Balamuralikrishna who wrote the lively chittaswaram to this kriti many decades ago as a mark of his tribute to Muthuswami Dikshitar; and this has now become an integral part of the composition.
The maestro’s next song was to mark Hanumath Jayanti, with his own composition – ‘Hanuma anuma oh Manama… hanuma namame sukhamanuma.’ A unique aspect of this Sarasangi piece is that as many times as the syllable maa occurs in the song, the corresponding swaram is madhyamam. Hanuman is the musician of musicians, Balamuralikrishna observed as he explained what prompted him to write this song.
The third in ragam Panthuvarali was Balamuralikrishna’s own kriti, ‘Varuga varuga maamayileriye.’ The opening phrase in the charanam, in an earlier version, runs thus: ‘alavilaa igamogattaal, en ulamadil theeraa tuyar utren.’ On this occasion though, he sang ‘alavila pala yennangalaal…’ That is the freedom a composer has over his art.
The next tribute was to R. Ramachandran, founder of Hamsadhwani. The song was Sadasiva Brahmendral’s 'Pibare Raama rasam rasane,' which became a sensation in the 1950s when the maestro’s version was broadcast by AIR. Playback singers K.J. Yesudas and S.P. Balasubramanyam acknowledge the impact it had on them.
The other mellifluous devotional of the evening was a composition of Prayaga Rangadas Sarma, Balamuralikrishna’s maternal grandfather. 'Raamaraama yena raada raghupathi rakshakudani vinaleda,' in Sindubhairavi. This is a song on the deity of the Venugopalaswami temple of Gudimoolla Lanka village in East Godavari district. So prolific has been his release of albums over the decades, every song he sings live today has a ready reference somewhere.
For some years now, the concluding piece in a Balamuralikrishna recital is a tillana (in raagam Brindavani on this occasion), not the mangalam. Music is eternal and imposing an end would imply quite the contrary spirit has been his constant refrain.
It must undoubtedly have been an occasion of a life-time for Krishnakumar, supporting vocalist, the distinguished violinist Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan, Trivandrum Balaji who played the mridangam and N. Rajaraman the ghatam. The listeners that evening would sure have expressed the same sentiment.