They say his is Gods 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 Doordarshan in colour was just six-years-old,that north Indians began humming Isaindhal namm,iruvarin suramum,namadhakum…,the Tamil section of Lok Seva Sanchar Parishads song Mile sur mera tumhara. The endearing M Balamuralikrishna who sang this part along the Bay of Bengal became a household name,and 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 Bharatanatayam and MS Subbulaxmi. I had a great time doing Mile sur…,which was a very simple yet beautiful composition. People in north India knew me and that was overwhelming. The makers shouldnt have created a Phir mile sur, says 83-year-old M Balamuralikrishna,sitting in his hotel room a few hours before his performance.
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 penchant for non-conformism has also made him explore an entirely different world-of casinos. Thats recreation. I enjoy it immensely. Who says a musician cant 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 gharanas 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 ones own compositions. Thats exciting, says Balamuralikrishna,adding Im still learning and shall remain a student all my life. I dont sing. My music sings. It just comes to me and I become an instrument for it. We believe him.