Balamurali Krishna is an Andhra legend. Along with Thyagaraja, Annamacharya, & Bhadrachalam Ramdas he is undoubtedly one of our greatest classical composers. His stamp on the Classical Indian Music tradition is undeniable, and he remains a stalwart of the Carnatic School.
Born in Sankaraguptam village in East Godavari District, Mangalampali, Balamurali Krishna was raised in a family of musicians, as his mother was a skilled veena player, and his father a well known flautist and violinist. Balamurali gaaru, however, was destined to be a legendary singer.
His father enrolled him as a student of Sri Pantulu, who was of the guru-shishya parampara of none other than Thyagaraja himself.
As usual, our lazy Andhra state government failed to properly recognize and patronize this Andhra ratna. And so, Dr. Krishna had to relocated to Coimbatore and then Chennai, in Tamil Nadu before attaining the acclaim he so richly deserves.
A child prodigy, Balamurali Krishna’s contribution to Indian Classical Music and Andhra culture cannot easily be measured. He was not only a creator of ragas and a classical singer and composer, but a playback singer as well.
Exceedingly versatile, he sang in a number of languages beyond his Theeyamaina Tenugu, including Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Punjabi, English, and even French. His work in the latter even earned him Chevalier des Artes from France. He has given over 25,000 concerts in more than 75 years of performing.
His classical kritis (compositions) number over 400 in Sanskrit, Telugu, and Tamil. He innovated the ragas Sarvasri, Lavangi, Sumukham, and Mahati, picking up where Thygaraja himself left off. This accomplishment has marked him as a Vaggeyakara, or innovator of melodies. He published his work with all the 72 melakarta ragas in a book known as Janaka Raga Manjari, in 1952. This was done at the extraordinarily young age of 15.
He has made a number of musical innovations as well, even venturing in to musical therapy and musical fusion. He is particularly famed for his work in fusing jazz with carnatic. Most praiseworthy of all, has been his attitude towards music, which we at ACP would in turn apply to culture in general:
“Music is not as simple as learning and performing. Values and ethics enhance its aesthetic quality.”
Balamurali gaaru, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. But why simply say, when we can hear you sing…
Among my personal Balamurali favorite performances are his rendition of the timeless kirthana by Annamacharya: Brahma Kadigina Paadamu as well as the simply divine composition by Bhadrachalam Ramadas sankirthana, Paluke Bangara mayena.
Below is a more playful version of the latter–showing Balamurali gaaru’s more lighthearted side.
Awarded the Padma Sri, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Vibhushan successively, Dr. Balamurali Krishna is truly an Andhra and Bharat Ratna.
He is a true son of the Telugu land, having composed songs that specifically praised the beauty and grandeur of the Telugu language.
A living legend, his contribution to classical Indian music places him in the top ranks of Andhra personalities, and certainly, among ACP favorites.
- The Hindu : Friday Review Chennai : He defines ‘style’ as tradition