Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna

Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna (born July 6, 1930) is a Carnatic vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and a playback singer. He is also acclaimed as a poet, composer and respected by all Indian classical musicians for his knowledge of Carnatic Music

A native of Sankaraguptan, a small village in Rojolu Taluk in the East Godvari District of Andhra Prodesh, Balamuralikrishna inherited his musical skills from his parents. His father, Pattabiramayya, played flute, violin and veena, and, his mother, Suryakantamma, played veena. His mother died when he was just fifteen days old, however, and he was raised as an infant by his maternal aunt, Subhamma. Relocating to Vijayawada, at the age of two, he began to study music with his father. When he showed an aptitude for music, his father sent him to study with Parupalli Ramakrishna Pantulu. Sri Pantulu was a direct descendant of the sisya parampara of Saint Thyagaraja. Under his guidance, the young Balamuralikrishna learnt Carnatic Music. At the age of eight, Balamuralikrishna gave his first full fledged concert at a Thyagaraja Aradhana, Vijayawada. Musunuri Suryanarayana Murty Bhagavatar, a distinguished Harikatha performer, saw the musical talent in the child and gave the prefix 'Bala' (child) to the young Muralikrishna. This title has stuck ever since and Balamuralikrishna has been known so. 

Leaving school during the sixth grade, Balamuralikrishna began to pursue music full-time. Balamuralikrishna thus began his musical career at a very young age. By the age of fifteen he had mastered all the 72 melakartha ragas and had composed krithis in the same. 
Not merely content with his fame as a carnatic vocalist, very soon Balamurali proved his immense versatility by playing the kanjiramridangam, viola and violin. He also accompanied various musicians in violin and is also noted to give solo viola concerts.
His immense versatility in all the fields of music, his mesmerizing voice, his unique way of rendering the compositions helped him to carve out a niche in the Music era. He collaborated with the top musicians in the Hindustani circle and is known to be the first to start the jugulbandi type of concerts. The first of such kind was in Mumbai, where he accompanied Bhimsen Joshi. He also gave jugalbandi concerts with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar, among others. These concerts made him popular throughout the country and also helped in national integration through music.
Poet composer and musicologist, Balamuralikrishna has restored the trinity's composition to their original whole. He represents a new era in Carnatic music. Like the galaxy of giants preceding him, he has helped in the preservation of the musical heritage in his own way. He is also known for popularising the Compositions of Sri Bhadrachala Ramadasu and Sri Annamacharya.

While his native tongue is Telugu, he sings not only in Telugu but also in many languages including Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi.

He also acted in the Telugu movie "Bhakta Prahlada" (1967) under the banner of AVM Productions Narada wherein, he sang his own songs. He also acted in a few more movies as well.

He appeared as featured soloist with an award-winning British choir, performing the "Gitanjali Suite" with words from Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize-winning poetry and music by Dr. Joel, the noted UK-based Goan composer. His clear diction in several languages prompted an invitation to record Tagore's entire Rabindra Sangeet compositions in Bengali, preserving them for posterity. He has sung in French, and even ventured into jazz fusion, collaborating with the top Carnatic percussion teacher, Sri T.H. Subash Chandran, in a concert for Malaysian royalty.
 He has recently become increasingly interested in music therapy, and now performs only occasionally. He gave its authorization to S. Ram Bharati to found "Academy of Performing Arts and Research" in Switzerland and is also working on music therapy. He established the 'MBK Trust' with the objective of developing art and culture and for carrying out extensive research into Music Therapy. A dance and music school, 'Vipanchee' is a part of this Trust and is run by his managing trustee Kalaimamani Saraswati.
Dr Balamuralikrishna has composed over 400 compositions in various languages like Telugu, Sanskrit and Tamil. His compositions ranges from Devotional to Varnams, Kirthis, Javalis and Thillans. His greatest achievement are the compositions in all the fundamental 72 melakartha ragas.
Dr Balamuralikrishna has innovated the whole Carnatic Music System by keeping its rich tradition untouched. The ragas like Ganapathi, Sarvashri, Mahati, Lavangi etc. are credited to him. The ragas which he invented represent his quest for new frontiers. Ragas like Lavangi are set to three or four notes in ascending and descending scale. Ragaas created by him, like Mahathi, Lavangi, Sidhdhi, Sumukham have only Four Notes; While Ragaas created by him, like Sarva Sri, Omkaari, Ganapathy have only Three Notes .

He also innovated the tala system. He has incorporated "Gathi Bedam" in the "Sa Sabdha Kriya" ( Actions in Talas, which can produce sound/Sabdha are called Sa Sabdha Kriya) part of the existing Tala chain, thus throwing open a new chain of Tala System. Saint Arunagirinaadhar used to inject such systems in his famous Thirupugazh, but only as Sandham, while Balamuralikrishna is known to be the pioneer in bringing such Sandhams into a logical rhythm, with Angam & Definition. Thri Mukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptha Mukhi & Nava Mukhi are the Basic Classifications, he has named for his New Tala System.
When coming to his compositions, his Thillanas speaks of the glory. Balamuralikrishna is supposed to be the pioneer in injecting Sangathis in Thillanas too as well. His emotional interpretation to the Thyagaraja Krithi Nagumomu has won him accolades and is popular even today.
Balamuralikrishna was criticized for his invention of new ragas. They were once regarded an act of sacrilege by the orthodox. But then, any serious appraisal of a contemporary work of art must be historically informed. Innovation of new ragas was the defining characteristic of the Thyagaraja legacy. According to physicists M.V. Ramana and V.N. Muthukumar, the more than 700 Thyagaraja compositions available today are set in 212 ragas. Of them, 121 had but one composition and Thyagaraja was the first to compose kritis in 66 ragas. Significantly, the ragas Vivardhani and Navarasa Kannada - which are innovations by Thyagaraja - have just four notes on the ascent. They were the first of their kind in the 19th century. Arguably, Balamuralikrishna's own ragas merely take Thyagaraja's endeavour to its culmination. Ranjani, another Thyagaraja creation, boasts of over a hundred kritis today, including Balamuralikrishna's Vande Maataram.

Titles and Awards
  • Sangeetha Kalanidhi 
  • Gaana kousthuba
  • Gaanakalabhooshana
  • Gaana gandharva
  • Gaayaka Sikamani
  • Gaayana Chakravarthy
  • Gaana Padmam
  • Nadajyothi
  • Sangeetha Kala Saraswathi
  • Nada Maharishi
  • Gandharva Gana Samrat
  • Jnanasagara
  • The Musician of the Century, to name a few
  • For the cause of National Integration, the Governor of Maharashtra honored him for services rendered.
  • He is the only Carnatic Musician to get three National awards as the Best Playback Singer, the Best Music Composer and the Best Music Director.
  • He has been awarded the All India Radio's "Top Grade" for seven different performance areas.
  • Dr M Balamuralikrishna has made the National awards such as Padmashree, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan as his own. 
  • He is also the only carnatic musician to have won Chevaliers of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government.
  • Apart from all these, he has won many honorary doctorates from various prestigious Universities.

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