M Balamuralikrishna was a temple of music: Singer Sudha Raghunathan's tribute to the legend
I did not want to believe what I had heard. So I rushed to his residence and was compelled to accept it as the truth. I stood beside him in stony silence. I doubt I would be able to express all that I would like to say about Padma Vibhushan, Knight Of Legion of Honour, Sangita Kalanidhi Balamuralikrishnaji… about his music and his fame that stood larger than life. A true son of the soil who, through his music, touched millions of hearts, leaving a void that can never be filled.
Having met him recently during his 85th birthday celebrations and singing his compositions before him, I had enjoyed his warmth and affection. During this occasion he spoke about how happy he was to see me and enquired of my family — after all did he not sing at my son Kaushik’s wedding and make all of us indebted to him for his kindness? Little did I know that this would be my last interaction with him! It had been on my mind to always drop by subsequently and enquire, but each day passed by, with me entangled in a web of my commitments. We always take for granted the ones we love assuming they will always be there.
What is he to me — a manseeka guru, a cherished family member, a benefactor, a friend, a guiding light or a genius? Be it at work while we discussed collaborations, or when I simply sat at his feet listening to him reminiscing, or when he blessed me during each of my achievements, or when he gave constant tips... he had a special aura that always drew me to him time and again to see how much more I could imbibe from this maestro.
Watching him perform was like a feast for the eyes and ears. The resonant voice would boom at every corner of the auditorium and open up spaces unknown of hitherto. When it came to imagination, the sky was his limit. The highest note would be caressed with masterly ease and he would then dive down to the crevices in the mandhra sthayi with equal élan. At any octave the voice would not lose its magnetic appeal. He could thunder and at the same time soothe. He could soar on his octaves, yet croon lullabies so beautifully that the Lord himself would have gone to sleep smiling. His manodharma flowed like liquid gold studded with the gems of ragams and swarams — his voice simply obeyed each of his commands.
His versatility knew no bounds. Balamuralikrishna was a multi-instrumentalist, an actor, a playback singer with golden hits such as 'Oru naal podhuma'. Not even a lifetime is sufficient to sing the paeans of this genius. His fine Telugu diction made his renditions of Tyagaraja, Annamacharya and Bhadrachala Ramadas immortal. The nuances, the highs and lows, the jaarus and gamakams spoke of his own unique style.
Like an eagle he soared high and built his nest on some lofty solitude. He was detached, yet attached. Being lost in his music, exploring, adventuring, creating, recording, teaching and weaving into our hearts silently, he ensured that we got attached to him, not ever wanting to let go.
Wielding a magic wand, he endeared himself to the masses with that twinkle in his eyes and a cherubic smile that lit up his face, belying his age. As he grew older and his frame shrunk, that charismatic face and his bewitching smile, however, remained intact, continuing to draw rasikas from far and near.
Blessed with immense kalpana shakti (power of creativity) his innovations and inventions are endless. His raga delineations, the cascading of swara prastharas, his creations of kritis in melakarta ragams and in rare ragams such as Mahathi, Ganapathi, Lavangi and Sarvashri… these are all treasure troves that stand the test of time. A grand parampara and a flaming trail left behind — so much for us to learn, imbibe and continue his legacy.
An inexplicable loss to the world of Carnatic music, his voice and his music will always remain with us forever. He was a temple of music, an encyclopedia of kritis, a sanctum of ragams and swarams, and a repository of knowledge — a musician who had a soul connect with his rasikas and stole all our hearts with his performances.
काममय एवायं पुरुष इति। स यथाकामो भवति तत्क्रतुर्भवति।
यत्क्रतुर्भवति तत्कर्म कुरुते। यत्कर्म कुरुते तदभिसंपद्यते॥
You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed,. As your deed is, so is your destiny.