Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna: Never before, never after

As the baritone of Indian classical music calms down, the music fraternity celebrates his contribution and hopes to keep his legacy alive, Srivathsan Nadadhur writes

November 23, 2016 05:14 pm | Updated 05:14 pm IST

Owning up-K. Sivaprasad, whistle artiste, named ‘Gala Murali’ by Balamuralikrishna

When he first heard me perform ‘Pibare Rama Rasam’ in Chennai, he’d announced on stage that I was a son of parents who were immortal that is ‘sruthi’ and ‘laya’ and that he would want to meet me later. I was surprised to receive a letter from him asking me to come to Chennai. A few days later, one of his disciples packed all the luggage from my hotel and shifted it to one of his son’s room in his house. He made me perform in front of music-label owners who instantly wanted to record my renditions. My world had turned around when he silently played the kanjira for the recording session. It was at the Raja Rani festival, Bhubaneshwar later where I reprised about his 75 tracks of his Rabindra Sangeet by whistling, he decalared me as ‘Gala murali’ and proudly announced me as his son. He always used to say, ‘I can sing, write and play instruments, but you are very special’.

The swansong-Jananiy, composer and disciple

I still pinch myself to realise that he had last sung for a film ( Prabha ) with and for me. The song ‘Poove Pesum Poove’ was about a mother and a child, he practiced it like a newcomer, and would continuously ask if he was going wrong anywhere. The vibes were amazing. Even when I learnt under him, he’d taught us both ‘sangeetham’ and ‘ingitham’ (the knowledge to behave with others). The last words that he spoke to me were reassuring: ‘Unakkellam Varum Maa’. His images continue to flash in front of me.

The complete man-A Jayadevan, violinist and disciple

Every minute he was alive, he knew nothing was permanent but talked of how eternal music is. Knowing that my physically challenged brother Ambalikuttan cannot drive to his home to learn music, he himself came down to our Chennai residence to teach him. I was right in front of him when he created a raga ‘Ravisri’ for Pandit Ravi Shankar for his concert at San Deigo in 2006. It was magical.

Once in Kerala for an Onam concert, he created the only Carnatic composition in Malayalam about Mahabali. On the other side, he remains the only singer to have lent his voice to a rare on-screen appearance of Yesudas in a film.

Over generations-Yella Venkateswara Rao, mridangam artiste

My bond with the legend goes a long way, almost six decades. I was 10 when I first performed with him. My mother named my second son after him. Interestingly, I feel privileged that my father, me and my son have all performed with him at different concerts. It’s right to call him ‘yugapurushudu’, none can dethrone his authority. While I looked at him like a friend whom I immensely respect, he treated me like his own son. I was floored when he said that ‘my mridangam sings’. He was a jolly man, never perturbed about people and had an uncanny sense of humour.

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