Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (6 July 1930 – 22 November 2016) was an Indian Carnatic vocalist, musician, multi-instrumentalist, playback singer, composer, and character actor.He has garnered two National Film Awards (1976-1987), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1975, the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honor in 1991, for his contribution towards arts, the Mahatma Gandhi Silver Medal from UNESCO in 1995, the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2005, the Sangeetha Kalanidhi, and the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani to name a few.
Balamuralikrishna started his career at the age of six. Up to the present time, he has given over 25,000 concerts worldwide. He accompanied Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, and gave jugalbandi concerts with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar, among others. He is also known for popularizing the compositions of Sri Bhadrachala Ramadasu and Sri Annamacharya. Balamuralikrishna's concerts combine sophisticated vocal skills and rhythmic patterns of classical music with the popular demand for entertainment value. Balamurali Krishna has been invited to give concerts in many countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East and many more. Apart from his native tongue, Telugu, his works also include ones in other languages like Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi.
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. In February 2010, he did a three-day concert in Visakhapatnam.
Balamurali Krishna was born in Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh state. His father was a well known musician and could play the flute, violin and the veena and his mother was an excellent veena player. His mother died when he was an infant and Balamuralikrishna was raised by his father. Observing his penchant for music, his father put him under the tutelage of Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, a direct descendant of the shishya parampara of Tyagaraja.
Under his guidance, the young Balamuralikrishna learned 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.
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. The Janaka Raga Manjari was published in 1952 and recorded as Raagaanga Ravali in a nine-volume series by the Sangeeta Recording Company. Not merely content with his fame as a Carnatic vocalist, very soon started playing the kanjira, mridangam, viola and violin. He also accompanied various musicians in violin and is also noted to give solo viola concerts.
Balamuralikrishna performs in 2005
Characteristic of Balamuralikrishna's musical journey has been his non-conformism, spirit of experimentation and boundless creativity. 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 "gati bhEdam" (గతి భేదం) in the "sashabda kriya" (సశబ్ద క్రియ) (actions in Talas, which can produce sound/shabda (శబ్ద) are called sashabda kriya - సశబ్ద క్రియ) 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 and definition. Thri Mukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptha Mukhi and Nava Mukhi are the basic classifications, he has named for his New Tala System. He gave his authorisation 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.
Balamuralikrishna during a concert in Kuwait on 29 March 2006, accompanied by Mavelikkara Sathees Chandran (violin), Perunna G. Harikumar (mridangom), Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam)
Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna and Ravi Joshi, during a concert in San Francisco, California, April 2014
Balamuralikrishna has composed over 400 compositions in various languages like Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil. His compositions range from Devotional to Varnams, Krithis, Javalis and Thillans, in all the fundamental 72 melakartha ragas to film music. He made his acting debut with Bhakta Prahlada (1967) under AVM Productions as Narada, and has acted in various films including Kananda.
Balamuralikrishna died after prolonged illness on 22 November 2016 in Chennai; he was 86.
Awards and Honors
Padma Vibhushan (1991)
Mahatma Gandhi Silver Medal from UNESCO
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres Chevalier ribbon.svg Chevalier Rank Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government (2005).
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award - 1975
All India Radio - Top Grade – Awarded "Top Grade" multi instrumentalist and musician
National Film Awards
1976 – National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer – Hamsageethe – "Himadri Suthe Pahimam"
1987 – National Film Award for Best Music Direction – Madhavacharya
Kerala State Film Awards
1987-Best Male playback singer – Swathi Thirunal
2010-Best Classical Music Singer-Grammam
Raindropss Life Time Achievement Award in the field of Music
Sangeetha Kalanidhi by The Music Academy, Madras
Sangeetha Kalasikhamani by The Fine Arts Society, Chennai (1991)
He was awarded the Lifetime achievement Global Indian Music Academy Award for 2011.
"Sangeetha Virinchi" tilte conferred by Sangeetha Bharathi music School, Auckland during Dr BMK concert "Raganga Ravali" in 2009 at Auckland, New Zealand
Telugu Book of Records