Music

Mangalampalli magic lives on

Noted violinist Annavarapu Ramaswamy

Noted violinist Annavarapu Ramaswamy   | Photo Credit: C.V.Subrahmanyam

Close associates and musicians unravel the genius that was M. Balamuralikrishna.

Seven decades of a successful life dedicated to song opts for silence and sojourn into another world. Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna was a legend in his lifetime. The unparalleled genius of Carnatic music firmament has as many ‘worshippers’ as his compositions. It was not just his audiences who knew music and heard of him with awe and admiration; he was the pride of Telugu land, every single individual with some inkling of music through the radio to records to cassettes to CDs /DVDs spanning across generations, admired and followed him religiously. Such is the power of pure music.

Says the veteran violinist Annavarapu Ramaswamy in a grief-torn voice, “We trained under the same guru, Parupalli Ramakrishnaiah Pantulu in Vijayawada. At 14, he was able to render in all the 72 melakarta ragas. What do you call this if not a prodigy. His father was also learning under our guru during that time.

All the ‘navarasa’ found expression in his tone when he began to sing, more so the profound bhakti bhava. His pitch was three-and-a-half, none could sing in that range till date! He breathed life into the then All-India Radio’s popular early morning show,the Bhakti Ranjani that drew every member of a household to turn a ear to the radio in their houses.

He picturised the verse of a kriti with such emotional rendition that once, in Mysore when I accompanied him on the violin, he dwelt on the line, Jagamele paramatma eviri tho moralidadu... and lifted his hand as a gesture of seeing the Lord and believe me the audience turned back to see if the ‘paramatma’ was really coming! Yes, for me it’s not just the loss of a great musician; it’s the loss of a friend, a contemporary and like all friends we had our tiffs and make-ups too; that is the beauty of life and long-standing association.”

Prince Rama Varma of the Travancore royalty, an ardent disciple and propagator of the unique Mangalampalli brand of music, says, “What can I say except what I’ve been saying all through. To me my guru lives on. We all have our expiry dates, but with Balamurali it is the physical self that is no longer visible to us; he lives on in his various pupils. We have not seen or heard how saint Thyagaraja or Dikshitar wrote and sang their compositions. But here we are lucky to have had a composer par excellence, a most melodic musician singing and writing right in front of our eyes. What more, I am even more fortunate to have learnt and sing before him, get the corrections and the adulation.

He had the simplicity of a child to praise anything or anyone no matter how small or big if he heard one sing well. At times, he would hear others singing one or two of his compositions and quip, ‘if in my lifetime itself they are wrecking my composition in this manner, what would they do after I am gone?’ I often train my pupils in his bani and present them to him so that he would know how his music flows undiluted and unadulterated from me to my pupils.

He would ask to upload it then and there and would tune into them again later, savouring his bani. Now I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve the treasure of his music and hand it over to the next generation with reverence. Having lived and moved with him in close quarters ever since that magical 1995, all I can say is he was God’s multifaceted creation.”

Y. Ramaprabha, principal of Durgabai Deshmukh Mahila Sabha music college, had played the tambura for Mangalampalli on a number of occasions. “In this era, he is the one and only maha vidwan who always sang all his music be it private or in public, for himself. He would enjoy and experience the bliss of what he was rendering first before it passed on to the audience. No wonder he had countless admirers. His multi-talented personality shone bright and brilliant like the morning sun. What a wealth of knowledge he has given us — his lilting tillanas, his raaganga ravali, his compositions in almost all the raga available plus his own unique raga.

He was a true musician who always had humility and reverence towards gurus though he himself was a master par excellence.

This is so evident in his collection of songs of guru, especially the one in Kapi raga where he lists the parampara. None can equal his genius.

Our music was originally called Gandharva ganam before it bifurcated into Carnatic and Hindustani. Here was a true Gandharva, the timbre of whose voice could find no match. We were fortunate to have had him in our midst,” she voices for the rest of the musicians.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 10:58:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/Mangalampalli-magic-lives-on/article16687882.ece

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