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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Cultural Heritage:‘A gentleman with a lot of humility’


Veteran Carnatic flautist G.S. Srikrishnan reminisces about the genius of M.Balamuralikrishna.The experiences of senior artists go beyond the practice of their chosen medium. Distinguished Carnatic flautist and music composer Guruvayur S. Srikrishnan, or GSS as he is fondly called, is one such example. During a career of over seven decades that began as a child artist and later took him to several posts in All India Radio, GSS has collected a rich repertoire of anecdotes on music and musicians from across India.He has memories of M. Balamuralikrishna, the stalwart whose passing has left the music world feeling bereft, which go beyond the latter’s status quo. Anyone who is slightly familiar with Carnatic music will agree that Balamuralikrishna is synonymous with the genre. His sprawling musical career spread over a span of eight decades is evidence enough of his versatility and devotion towards all that is music. And in these eight decades, GSS saw a part of Balamuralikrishna’s life that makes him smile in admiration every time he thinks of the icon.Where did he first meet Balamuralikrishna? What was he like? GSS clears his throat to answer these questions. There is a slight pause as he ponders for a few seconds and then he says, “It was a long time ago in the year 1960 in Calicut, when I was working with the All India Radio. He was a gentleman with a lot of humility.”He continues, “I never saw him speak ill of another musician, be it big or small. I never saw him speak without a smile to another human being. I think these exceptional qualities translated into his music too. The AIR used to hold an Invited Audience Concert back in the day, on special occasions like festivals. We invited some highly honoured musicians every year. He was quite young at that time, when I first met him. The man was accompanied by other legends like MS Gopalakrishnan and TV Gopalakrishnan. A day after the concert, we spent an evening by the beach, something I still cherish. Balamuralikrishna never forgot the people he met.”

Speaking of Balamuralikrishna’s musical genius, GSS says that his secret lay in his inventiveness, thereby following a path that wasn’t restrictive. “He experimented with music all his life. At one point, some senior musicians were critical of his approach. They thought that it was not the right way to do things. But it is that very style which made him, him. He played around with ragas but never did anything unacceptable. The quality of the raga was never tampered with. His voice modulation capacity was remarkable. This is exactly how he carved a niche that was his own.”The veteran flautist elaborates, “A 19th Century composer called Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer brought the usage of the gamaka in the Gandharam of Todi raga. He was also criticised for the same but today, the raga is incomplete without the gamaka. Similarly, Balamuralikrishna’s style has now become a norm. He’s one of the most difficult people to imitate on stage. Take, for instance, the Kuntalavarali tillana. Many of his disciples have tried to showcase what they have learnt from him, but he is a class apart.”GSS also remembers the specific strategy Balamuralikrishna applied so as to ensure a gratifying rendition of his music. “Many vocalists struggle with the accompanying artistes because sometimes, they play off track or side-track. To tackle this, there is a certain way in which he dealt with the microphone, something in my opinion the other musicians can learn from. He’d move as close as possible and sing softly into it, which made him sound tremendous on the speakers. The other desired effect is that the accompanying artistes could never interrupt his singing because they could never hear him,” GSS chuckles.Being an outstanding musician, GSS’s own musical journey took him to great heights. A Fellow of the Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi and a Guruvayur Puraskaram recipient, he had, on a few occasions, the good fortune of working with Balamuralikrishna. In fact, so unparalleled is GSS’s own work that Balamuralikrishna once expressed a desire to play the viola accompanying him. “This happened back in 1987. I was posted in AIR, Madras as the Assistant Station Director. We had these morning concerts from 8.30 to 9.30, which I still think get broadcast by top-ranking musicians. He had come there for a recording. Once the concert got over, he came to me and told me how he enjoyed my own concert which had happened a couple of days ago. And then came the next question, ‘When can I accompany you on the viola?’ So, we booked a slot and did the concert. I still remember how well-received it was,” says GSS.

A Sanskrit scholar, it was rather easy for Balamuralikrishna to understand and investigate the kritis he came across. “His mother tongue was Telugu. He read the Vedas as a child. It was never a task for him to develop kritis. He clearly understood and conveyed the meaning of those words in Sanskrit and Telugu and knew exactly how to separate words in padams, going away from the way it was being done until then. This caused some hullabaloo, but what is great cannot be tamed. My favourite is Nagumo (Aabheri raga),’ adds GSS.Balamuralikrishna’s success as a musician and composer hardly comes as a surprise considering his universality and inclusiveness. He not only garnered devotion from his contemporaries but also some of the illustrious musicians from yesteryears. GSS says, “The great musician GN Balasubramaniam once told Balamuralikrishna – ‘Naan taan da nee’ (you are me)’. GNB sang with a lot of clarity and he saw that that was just how Balamuralikrishna worked too. You can literally pick the words that came out of his mouth. At times, he’d pick on the minute nuances of a given raga and elaborate on that. It requires an intricate knowledge of the swaras to render the same accurately. Owing to his dedication, his compositions have become more and more refined over time. He once sang ‘Ganasudharasam’ in Nattai raga during one of his katcheris. The piece is a description of Tyagaraja and one could simply paint a picture only by listening to him sing.”GSS, who retired from AIR as Station Director, Kozhikode some two decades ago, does not shy away from saying that Balamuralikrishna is irreplaceable. He says that just like one remembers Srinivas for mandolin or TR Mahalingam for flute, Balamuralikrishna is identical with Carnatic music. “He is a vaggeyakaran (poet and composer) in the true sense, probably the only one after Swathi Thirunal,” GSS signs off.

Source and Credit :- http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/%E2%80%98A-gentleman-with-a-lot-of-humility%E2%80%99/article16833283.ece
Forwarded by :- Shri. Jainendra Nigam PB News Desk prasarbharati.newsdesk@gmail.com

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