The world of Carnatic music suffered a big loss as prolific classical vocalist Padma Vibhushan Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna passed away at his residence in Chennai on Tuesday at the age of 86.
He was a fifth-generation descendant in the guru-shishya parampara of saint-composer Thyagaraja.
Born in Shankaraguptam in Andhra Pradesh, he was a renowned vocalist and an instrumentalist who played the veena, violin, ganjeera and mridhungam. His father, Pattabiramayya was also a musician, playing the flute, violin and veena. His mother Suryakantamma played the veena.
Balamurali was a child prodigy and started singing in his own words at the age of five, and gave public performances by the age of eight.
He has over 400 film compositions to his name in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. Although he respected the traditional knowledge and compositions by the great musicians of the past, Balamurali Krishna did not believe in “blindly following tradition without applying one’s own mind”.
However, the renowned vocalist said that he had never sought such honours. “If you pursue music selflessly, recognition and awards follow. And even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter,” he told DNA.
He also told DNA of how the prefix ‘Bala’ came to be attached to his name. He said that it became a part of his name after he sang a full-fledged Thyagaraja Aradhana in Vijayawada at the age of eight. “It is a constant reminder that I shouldn’t stop learning,” he told DNA.
In January 2014, he announced his retirement, creating a stir with the declaration that the “the dignity of professional music concerts had deteriorated to a very low level and become commercial, communal and political”. However, he did continue to sing for radio, films and television.
Among the other allegations that he made announcing his retirement from the sabha culture, were that upcoming artists were paying to perform at sabhas.
His contemporaries however, accused him of turning bitter because his own importance in the world of Carnatic music had declined.
For those not familiar with Carnatic music, he was one of the leading lights featured in the national integration song-“Mile Sur Mera Tumhara”.