The maestro delivered outstanding alapanas.
At 79, he is still Balamuralikrishn-awe! The ‘event’ that took place on Sunday, which can be called ‘concert’ only in a technical sense, was truly a Festival of Manodharma, its glory enhanced by the rarity of the great singer’s performance.
The mesmerising spell that Balamurali casts on his audience was palpable from the pin-drop silence that engulfed the hall when the curtains went up. The silence was broken only when Balamurali, as though with careful deliberation, opened up with omkarams, the kind heard in temples, deep and resonant. And then, anchoring himself in his base sruti and signalling to the sound technician to raise the volume, Balamurali took off.
The voice was strong as steel, which made Veeraraghavan's ‘vocal support’ totally redundant. S. Natarajan, general secretary of the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy, had placed a request for an all-Tamil concert (a point to be noted by Tirupampuram Shanmukhasundaram of Tamil Isai Mandram, who keeps complaining that the world of Carnatic music ignores Tamil.)
Balamurali’s style is said to be teasing – an alapana that leaves the audience guessing. But that style was not the one he used that day. Hamsadhwani shone clearly and the alapana made way for ‘Pirai aniyam perumanai,’ a Balamurali composition. He tailed it with a plethora of half-avarthana swaras and it was in this infinite variety that the singer’s powerful manodharma shone. Here, mention must be made of Akkarai Subbulakshmi's enthusiastic support on the violin.
‘Varuga varuga maa mayil yeri’ (Kamavardhini, Balamuralikrishna) was preceded by an out-of-the-world alapana with the vocalist spanning all the three octaves with evident ease, going right up to the second upper ‘sa.’ The composition as well as the swaras that followed were rendered practically without gamakas, bringing in a touch of Hindustani. (There is a view among experts that Panthuvarali rendered without gamakas is Kamavardhini, but Balamuralikrishna does not agree His composition is tuned in Kamavardhini and Panthuvarali does not enter the picture.)
Mohanam followed. After a brief alapana came ‘Aaya kalaikkellam arasiye,’ yet another brilliant Balamurali creation. At the end of this piece came a thoroughly enjoyable thani by percussion vidwans Harikumar (mridangam) and Karthik (ghatam).
The concert then swung into a bunch of light classical pieces, notable of which was a moving Ramalinga Adigalar Thiruarutpa composition, ‘Appa naan vendudal kaetarul puridal vendum’ in Vagadeeswari.
After a thillana in Dwijavanti, ‘Seetha kalyana vaibhogame’ of Tyagaraja brought the curtains down. The only aspect missing in the concert was niraval.