Carnatic vocalist, playback singer and composer Mangalamapalli Balamuralikrishna, who burst into the music world as a child prodigy, died on Tuesday. He was 86 and is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters.
His music appealed to both the connoisseurs and the laymen alike. In classical music, he was able to give “play acting” to the essence of the lyrics in his song.
A native of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, his father Pattabiramaiah was a musician and his mother Sooryakanthamma was a veena player. He gave his first concert when he was nine and the quality of his music is explained by the fact that All India Radio (AIR), Chennai, included him, a child artist, in the list of A-grade artists.
He was also an accomplished violinist and once accompanied Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, the pioneer of the modern-day Carnatic concert format.
Balamuralikrishna learnt violin by listening to his father playing the instrument.
“Since my father was against me playing violin, I created my own instrument. Once I summoned courage and played his instrument in his absence. When questioned by my father I admitted and played Bhairavi ata thala varnam. My father was impressed and allowed me to play the instrument,” he had recalled in his biography Sangita Perunkadal, penned by Ranimynthan.
Violin playing came in handy when his voice underwent changes in his teens and could not sing.
“He had a magic voice. He is to Telugu keerthanas what M.M. Dhandapani Desikar was to Tamil music. Since Telugu was his mother tongue, he knew the meaning of Thiyagaraja’s keerthanas and would not maul them,” said clarinet maestro A.K.C. Natarajan, who also learnt many keerthana’s from him.
Thyagaraja Kirti Nagumomu, one of Balamuralikrishna’s famous and much loved Carnatic songs, tops the list of the most listened to songs of the late legend.