Music

A phenomenon beyond parallel

M. Balamuralikrishna,

M. Balamuralikrishna,   | Photo Credit: S_SIVA SARAVANAN

Balamuralikrishna’s voice truly represented his mind – neither had any frontiers.

The last 80 years were witness to a marvel in Indian music who can only be compared with himself and none other. No country in the world has seen someone like Dr Balamuralikrishna, a prodigy-turned-versatile genius whose gifted voice was complemented by commendable competence (born purely out of confidence) on the viola, the violin, the mridangam and the ganjira. Add to that national award winning blitz in the film world as a composer and actor, hundreds of compositions in Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit and literally thousands of awards and decorations in a glittering career and we barely have said anything about him yet.

Balamurali sir’s voice truly represented his mind – neither had any frontiers. He could leap from one note to another or surf across octaves in super-high speeds a la a virtuoso violinist rendering a Paganini Caprice. Remarkably he could leap from one idea to another in no time as an innovator, leaving not only audiences but also his co-artists breathless and in jugalbandis, his counterparts clueless. He was undoubtedly the most formidable Carnatic artiste in jugalbandis, commanding admiration from his Hindustani peers by his ability to render anything thrown at him.

Seeing him in jugalbandis always reminded me of Vaali in Ramayana who had won a boon to draw away half the strength of his opponents unto himself. However, in the number of jugalbandis I played with him from my teens, he was a most generous collaborator as a vocalist or violist, who was genuinely delighted if I responded to or even extended upon his musical flow appropriately.

I will never forget a Super-Trio concert where both of us shared the stage with N. Ramani (flute) in the Cleveland Festival where he was supposed to play the viola. He came all the way from India sans his instrument, but was genius enough to borrow a violin from one of the visiting artistes and still make a grand success of it!

I will forever cherish his gesture on the day of my first concert for the Music Academy on the chitravina in the year that he was crowned Sangita Kalanidhi. Though I was given the junior most slot, he graced the concert but left after 45 minutes! However, I was astonished to see him back on stage even as I was winding up the last piece. He came up to me and gifted me a silver medallion saying, “I was presented this in my first concert at age eight. I went home to fetch this as I have no doubt that this now belongs to you.”

The very next year he awarded the title, Nada Sudharnava to me from his organisation, Murali Ravali in a glittering event to commemorate his golden jubilee year and shortly thereafter, invited me to perform in an album with him.

As a close observer of his genius, I think that the secret behind his success, which was greater than the sum of his many talents, was due to one very telling factor – his utter conviction that whatever he believed in was the right way. In his own way, he shared this trait with T. Brinda, though they were stylistically poles apart. Both lived life on their own terms and never compromised on what they considered values and were never plagued by self-doubt.

On a personal note, Balamurali sir’s deep affection and regard for my guru and father Chitravina Narasimhan whom he considered more than family from the time he first heard him as a teenager made him no less special to me. Sanskrit paraphrases him best – na bhooto, na bhavishyati – unprecedented and unsurpassable.

(The author is a composer, musician and guru)

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:30:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/A-phenomenon-beyond-parallel/article16694799.ece

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