[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne more legend of Music industry has passed away, leaving his legacy of valuable singing which is evergreen even today. I have grown up listening to him. Veteran Carnatic musician Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna was a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, playback singer, composer and actor. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, for his contribution towards Indian Art. He was made Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2005. Balamuralikrishna was born in Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. His father was a well-known musician and could play the flute, violin and the veena and his mother was an excellent veena player. His mother died when he was an infant and Balamuralikrishna was raised by his father. Observing his inner penchant towards music, his father put him under the tutelage of Sri Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu. Sri Pantulu was a direct descendant of the sisya parampara of Saint Thyagaraja.
Under his guidance, the young Balamuralikrishna learnt Carnatic Music. At the age of eight, he gave his first full-fledged concert at a Thyagaraja Aradhana, Vijayawada. He is credited to innovating the tala system with Thri Mukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptha Mukhi and Nava Mukhi. Besides being a vocalist, Balamuralikrishna also played the viola, mridangam, and kanjira. He acted as Narada in Telugu movie “Bhakta Prahalada”. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too.
Balamuralikrishna thus began his musical career at a very young age. By the age of fifteen he had mastered all the 72 melakartha ragas and had composed krithis in the same. The Janaka Raga Manjari was published in 1952 and recorded as Raagaanga Ravali in a nine-volume series by the Sangeeta Recording Company. Not merely content with his fame as a Carnatic vocalist, he very soon started playing the kanjira, mridangam, viola and violin. He also accompanied various musicians in violin and was also noted to give solo viola concerts. Till date, he has given over 25,000 concerts worldwide. Balamuralikrishna accompanied Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. He also gave jugalbandi concerts with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar, among others. The vocalist is also known for popularising the compositions of Sri Bhadrachala Ramadasu and Sri Annamacharya.
Balamuralikrishna’s concerts combine sophisticated vocal skills and rhythmic patterns of classical music with the popular demand for entertainment value. He was invited to give concerts in many countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East and many other countries. Apart from his native tongue, Telugu, his works also include ones in other languages like Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi.
He appeared as a featured soloist with an award-winning British choir, performing the “Gitanjali Suite” with words from Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize-winning poetry and music by Dr. Joel, the noted UK-based Goan composer. His clear diction in several languages prompted an invitation to record Tagore’s entire Rabindra Sangeet compositions in Bengali, preserving them for posterity. He has sung in French, and even ventured into jazz fusion, collaborating with the top Carnatic percussion teacher, Sri T.H. Subash Chandran, in a concert for Malaysian royalty.
Recently, he had been increasingly interested in music therapy, and was performing occasionally. He gave his authorisation to S. Ram Bharati to establish “Academy of Performing Arts and Research” in Switzerland and is also working on music therapy. He established the ‘MBK Trust’ with the objective of developing art and culture and for carrying out extensive research into music therapy. A dance and music school, ‘Vipanchee’ is a part of this Trust.
In February 2010, he did a three-day concert in Visakhapatnam, a first in his career. Balamuralikrishna has composed over 400 compositions in various languages like Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil. His compositions range from Devotional to Varnams, Krithis, Javalis and Thillans, in all the fundamental 72 melakartha ragas to film music.
Characteristic of Balamuralikrishna’s musical journey has been his non-conformism, spirit of experimentation and boundless creativity. Balamuralikrishna experimented with the Carnatic music system by keeping its rich tradition untouched. The ragas like Ganapathi, Sarvashri, Mahati, Lavangi etc. are credited to him. The ragas which he invented represent his quest for new frontiers. Ragas like Lavangi are set to three or four notes in ascending and descending scale. Ragas created by him, like Mahathi, Lavangi, Sidhdhi, Sumukham have only four notes; while Ragas created by him, like Sarva Sri, Omkaari, Ganapathi have only three notes. He also innovated the tala system. Saint Arunagirinaadhar used to inject such systems in his famous Thirupugazh, but only as Sandham, while Balamuralikrishna is known to be the pioneer in bringing such Sandhams into a logical rhythm, with Angam and definition. Thri Mukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptha Mukhi and Nava Mukhi are the basic classifications, he has named for his New Tala System.
With his demise, we have lost one institution in the classical music industry. I pay my tributes to this legendary artist on behalf of my entire team of Afternoon Voice.
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