Concert to cherish
Balamuralikrishna's fans, who expected something different, were not disappointed.
NEW RAGAM, NEW KRITI: Balamuralikrishna presented a rare recital. Photo: K. V. Srinivasan.
Yes! It still makes a lot of sense to talk about that unique vocal recital of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna earlier this month at the Parthasarathi Swami Sabha. Not just because this happens to be one of the few occasions listeners get to hear him live in Chennai.
(There was enough and more of what you have stopped expecting in a kutcheri nowadays - originality, innovation and a bold and imaginative interpretation of masterpieces of great composers. Noticeably and refreshingly absent was mere recitation, repetition, ritual and routine that pass for a concert.)
How do you like a new ragam, a new kriti for an opening piece? ``Siddhim dehime, sakalasiddhim dehime" (grant me success, grant me all success) were the first lines. Even an ardent fan would have been surprised on hearing something new.
Then as Balamuralikrishna uttered ``Sivasuta mahaprabhava!" (son of Siva, of great glory!) all you knew was that it was an invocation to Ganapati. That still left you guessing the composer and the ragam. It might well have been a less known work of Muthuswami Dikshitar, such as ``Panchamatangavadana" in Malahari that Balamuralikrishna sang in 2005.
``Buddim dehime, sadbuddhim dehime; sarvakaryeshu buddhim dehime." (Grant me the power of discernment, grant me the power of clear discernment; in all endeavours) was the anupallavi.
``Ardham dehime, paramardham dehime; sakala prapancha adipoojaneeya muraligana." (grant me prosperity, grant me the ultimate end: emancipation; the foremost object of worship in the entire universe! Grant me the faculty of muraliganam.)
The composition must be at least the tenth of Balamuralikrishna's paeans to Vinayaka. And ragam Siddhi is yet another new scale created by the maestro. With just four notes Sadjam, chatusruti rishabham, panchamam and chatusruti daivatam in the ascent and descent, the ragam is as appealing as anything you have ever heard.
He followed this with Tyagaraja's ``Sangeeta gnyanamu," in Dhanyasi.
In Balamuralikrishna's distinctive interpretation, the kriti commences eloquently on the higher tonic (tarasthayi satjam), not the middle fifth (madhyama sthayi panchamam.)
His explanation is, ``Well, what does one say about the highlight of the recital, `Eennallu vinnavinchinanu,' in ragam Gamanasramam, 53rd melakartha?
Balamuralikrishna had written the kriti when he was still in his teens. His alapana and kalpanaswaram that evening bore ample evidence of the mastery and control over the majestic voice in all three octaves. If you were not present to listen to it live, a comparable version is in volume seven of the ``Raganga Ravali" series of Balamuralikrishna's compositions in the 72 melakarta ragas released by Sangeetha Records. His exposition of ragam Gamanasramam by itself is available in a separate ragam thanam pallavi album.
Then followed a mellifluous Jeyadeva Ashtapadi and a song of the 15th century composer Amaranarayana that Balamuralikrishna set to tune in Sankarabharanam. A few more of the maestro's signature songs in response to requests from the audience brought the recital to a close.
Surely, many would cherish the memory of this rare concert, whose appeal was unparalleled even with kalpanaswaram in just one kriti and no neraval or a ragam tanam pallavi.
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