Obituary: Sangeeta Samrat M. Balamuralikrishna
Veteran Carnatic musician Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, the resonating bass voice from Andhra Pradesh who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday at the age of 86, was music royalty and was rightly regarded as the best exponent of South Indian classical music for over six decades.
A musician par excellence, the Padma Vibhushan awardee even had a road in Vijayawada named after him by the local corporation during his lifetime – a rare feat for any legend.
He was a fifth generation descendant in the guru sishya parampara (hierarchy of disciples) of saint composer Shri Thyagaraja.
He was a child prodigy born to musician parents Suryakanthamma and Pattabhiramayya. Even without any formal education, at the tender age of 16, he composed songs in all 72 Melakartha ragas, considered the very foundation of Carnatic music and perhaps all other music on Earth.
A native of Sankaraguptam in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, he was named Murali Krishna.
At the age of 8, he gave his first concert in Vijayawada.
Distinguished Harikatha performer Musunuri Suryanarayana Murty Bhagavatar, who saw the concert, gave the prefix Bal‘, and, thus, he became Balamuralikrishna.
He claims he composed his first raga, Mahati, when he was only 24.
He is credited with having innovated the tala system with Thri Mukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptha Mukhi and Nava Mukhi. Besides being a vocalist, Balamuralikrishna also played the violin, viola, ganjira, veena and mridangam. He has 400 compositions to his credit, including varnams, krithis, havalis, devotional songs and thillanas.
Balamuralikrishna acted as Narada in Telugu movie ”Bhakta Prahalada”. He has rendered some unforgettable playback songs too. He was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1991.
Songs, ragas, and concerts followed with clockwork regularity. Along the way, he picked up the usual awards: Sangeetha Kalanidhi from the Music Academy; Kalaimani Award from the Tamil Nadu Government and the Padma Shree.
M Balamuralikrishna also did a comparative study of ragas in film music and classical music and presented the same in Doordarshan.
Being the first producer in All-India Radio, he is also known for pioneering early morning broadcasting called ‘Bhakthi Ranjani’.
He was the first principal of Government Music College, Vijayawada, besides having sung in various languages, including Tamil, Oriya, Marathi, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and French. He was the state musician of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Asthana Vidwan of Sringeri Peetam and Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam.
He is credited with having resurrected ragas like Narthaki, Sunadavinodini etc., besides creating new ragas like Lavangi, Mahathi, Manorama, Murali, Omkari, Prathimadhyamavathi, Rohini, Saravashree, Sumukham, Sushma, Ganapathi, Siddhi, Pushkara Godvari etc.
He also presented Rabindra Sangeeth for preservation for future by All-India Radio.
The magnetic capacity of his voice and music saw crowd puller towards Jugal Bandhis he performed with renowned vocalists and instrumentalists of North Indian classical music and helped in bringing about an understanding of national integration through music.
To record and print all his creations to preserve for posterity, a Trust by name ‘Vipanchee ‘has been created and the work is in progress under the direction of chairperson Kalaimamani Dr. Saraswathi, a versatile artiste.