God’s Own Voice

The genius of M Balamuralikrishna has always merged music with life itself. He talks about his wanderlust,being a student at 83 and his love for casinos

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: September 3, 2013 12:49 am

They say his is God’s own voice. In the ’60s and ’70s,scores of fans from south India queued outside concert halls to listen to his virtuosity. But it was on the morning of August 15,1988,when colour Doordarshan was just six-years-old,that north Indians began humming Isaindhal namm,iruvarin suramum,namadhakum…,the Tamil section of Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad’s song Mile sur mera tumhara. The endearing M Balamuralikrishna,who sang this part along the Bay of Bengal,became a household name. His voice range,which traversed three octaves with remarkable ease,was an obsession for many to achieve that unadulterated sweetness.

For Carnatic classical music,this was an achievement. But the system of music has somehow not been able to find a global resonance,except perhaps in the case of Bharatanatyam and MS Subbulaxmi. “I had a great time doing Mile sur…,a very simple yet beautiful composition. People in north India knew me and that was overwhelming. The makers shouldn’t have created a Phir mile sur,” says 83-year-old M Balamuralikrishna,sitting in his hotel room a few hours before his performance in Delhi last week.

But for most years,Balamuralikrishna has remained a non-conformist,with a penchant for innovation and defiance for the existing systems — for which he has been criticised every now and then. “I always think of something new and have enjoyed innovating with the existing systems. So I composed,created ragas and new tala systems and wrote poetry,” says Balamuralikrishna,a multi-instrumentalist,who sings in many languages.

Growing up in a Chennai family of musicians,Balamuralikrishna began learning Carnatic classical at a young age and was soon declared a child prodigy after his concert at the age of seven at Thyagaraja Aradhana,Vijayawada. He turned composer by the age of 14 and knew all the 72 melakartha ragas which form the backbone of Carnatic classical system. “I was extremely lucky to have some of the greatest gurus who taught me and nurtured my talent. I can sing a little bit

because of those that,”

adds Balamuralikrishna.

He says that the ones who say this need to understand that there is nothing like popular and classical music and people need to stop making that differentiation. “Music is music. It depends on how you approach it. I sing a love song as classical music,and classical music as a love song. So there is no difference,” he says. His non-conformism has also made him explore an entirely different world-of casinos. “That’s recreation. I enjoy it immensely. Who says a musician can’t go to casinos,” he says with a smile.

While performing at concerts,Balamuralikrishna sings his own compositions,without repeating any of them for a long long time (his oeuvre comprises over 400 of them). Only a handful of artistes in the country enjoy that distinction. Most try and bring in their gharana’s repertoire by singing other popular compositions. “I like to sing my own creations. There is a different level of innovation that one can do with one’s own compositions. That’s exciting,” says Balamuralikrishna,adding “I’m still learning and shall remain a student all my life. I don’t sing. My music sings. It just comes to me and I become an instrument for it.” We believe him.

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