Downtown

Banker by day, musician by night

Mannarkoil J. Balaji. Photo: R. Ravindran   | Photo Credit: R RAVINDRAN

Unlike the majority of mridangam players you meet at the sabhas, Mannarkoil J. Balaji does not depend on the instrument for a living. He has a bank job. Mridangam however gives him immense meaning and he is as professional as any other musician.

It takes determination and focus to be have a following among music enthusiasts. Balaji has managed this. A good part of the credit for this has to go to his gurus, R. Ramadoss and Ramanathapuram M. N. Kandaswamy.

Many awards have come Balaji’s way: Best Sub-Senior Mridangist award (Palani M Subramania Pillai Award) from Music Academy, Meritorious Award for Excellence from Maharajapuram Santhanam Trust, Asthana Vidwan from Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt and Laya Kala Vipanchee from Vipanchee.

He is an A grade artiste of the All India Radio and Doordarshan. The latest achievement is the Guru Karaikudi Mani Award for Mridangist instituted by Karaikudi Sri. R. Mani at Kartick Fine Arts for the year 2014. He is due to receive this award on December 26.

Another factor contributing to his popularity is his ability to interact freely with people: he conducts workshops and gives lectures across the globe.

“When compared to bharatnatyam and classical music (vocal), mridangam does not have many takers. This is because learning this art form takes a long time. Both the parent and the student should sustain the interest long enough to master the art,” he says.

On what has changed in all these years that he has performed on stage, he says, “Audience have become more disciplined. The impact of mass media on audience is huge and it has certainly played a role in taking classical music places,” says Balaji.

On his multi-tasking abilities, he says “There is enough time for all things. Having priorities is important.”

He has been a resident of K.K. Nagar for the last 14 years. He misses the greenery in his neighbourhood, which has been taken over by concrete.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 12:09:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/banker-by-day-musician-by-night/article6688943.ece

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