“At the 47th convocation this evening Andhra University honours the noted musician, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, with the conferment of the title ‘Kalaprapoorna’. That the honour should come to the artiste when he is at the zenith of his of his event-studded career is indeed gratifying.”
This was the opening paragraph of a news article in The Indian Express from the year 1974, when Carnatic music doyen M Balamuralikrishna had taken the world of Indian classical music by storm. The said article, which was published under the title ‘University honour for musician, poet and scholar-patriot’, was a reported piece by the paper’s then cultural correspondent LSR Krishna Sastry on Andhra University conferring the title of Kala Prapoorna (Sangeet) to the artiste. A clipping of the article had been saved by Sastry’s daughter Lakshmi Prabha, who sent over the article after the demise of musical genius on November 22 at the age of 86 — 42 years after this piece was published.
As the world mourns his death, it’s quite natural for us to sift through memories and dusty files that have stood witness to our personal journey with the maverick genius, who had mastered the structured intricacies of Carnatic music at such an early age, that he spent the rest of his lifetime deconstructing and radicalising it, while making it accessible to the laymen.
Here are some edited excerpts from the article:
“No mere training could have launched him on his career when he was hardly eight years old, and his first concert on the air when he was nine… Versatility is Balamurali’s forte. A vocalist of rare excellence, he is equally at ease on the viola and is the first to give solo programmes on it. He can play on the mridangam with dexterity and his touch is facile on the kanjira top.
“Listening to Balamurali is to take a plunge in the sea of delight. He is a class by himself in that he breathes life into the arts and renders it with clarity and vigour… He has popularised many rare ragas of Tyagaraja and brought classical music closer to the uninitiated.
“Numerous are the honours and titles that sought Balamurali. The President of India conferred on him ‘Padmasri’ in 1971.
“It is significant that music is being honoured again after a lapse of 24 years. It is doubly significant that the choice is Balamurali, who is now 44 — the right age when the honour can really warm the heart of the recipient.”
Balamuralikrishna went on to be conferred with India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, in 1991. With his demise, Indian classical music has lost one of its brightest and endearing scholars.