A tribute to Dr. M Balamuralikrishna – The legendary musician

Legendary Carnatic singer Dr. M Balamuralikrishna passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. He was 86.

Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (6 July 1930 – 22 November 2016) was an Indian Carnatic 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 started his career at the age of six. Up to the present time, he has given over 25,000 concerts worldwide.He accompanied Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. He also gave jugalbandi concerts with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar, among others. He 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. Balamurali Krishna has been invited to give concerts in many countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East and many more. Apart from his native tongue, Telugu, his works also include ones in other languages like Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi.

Characteristic of Balamuralikrishna’s musical journey has been his non-conformism, spirit of experimentation and boundless creativity. Balamuralikrishna has innovated the whole 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. Ragaas created by him, like Mahathi, Lavangi, Sidhdhi, Sumukham have only four notes; while Ragaas created by him, like Sarva Sri, Omkaari, Ganapathy have only three notes. He also innovated the tala system. He has incorporated “gati bhEdam” in the “sashabda kriya”(actions in Talas, which can produce sound/shabda are called sashabda kriya part of the existing Tala chain, thus throwing open a new chain of 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.

Dr. Balamuralikrishna has contributed a lot in the world of music. He established the “Academy of Performing Arts and Research” in Switzerland. He is also working on music therapy. For extensive research in the field of music therapy, he also established the MBK Trust to develop art and culture and spread the knowledge. “Vipanchee”, a dance and music school is a part of this trust and is managed by his trustee Kalaimamani Saraswati.

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