The Mysuru connection
Balamuralikrishna was the only living legend to have an auditorium built in his name at Anantapur by Gyaneshwar Rao, a music enthusiast. Recalling this S.N. Varadaraj of Ramaseva Mandali in Bengaluru, who has been organising Sriramanavami concerts for many decades says, “My father S.V. Narayanaswamy Rao brought Balamurali for a concert when he was 14 years. It became a permanent association as the melody of his voice drew largest crowds from other cities too,” recalls Varadaraj.
Balamuralikrishna is the recipient of the Chowdiah National Award too. The maestro was extremely happy to sing at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bengaluru, built in the shape of a violin in 1980. “The building is as awesome as Chowdiah’s sevenstringed violin,” the maestro commented, according to R. Subbaraj Urs, secretary, Academy of Music.
The icing on the cake was ‘Chowdiah navara Nenapinalli, Murthy kattida Bhavani nalli,’ that Balamurali composed during the concert. It flowed on his viola even as he sung the lyric sending the audience into raptures.
“He played the viola, sung two-hour dasarapada concerts and praised Karnataka’s love for the viola,” says N. Venkatesh, himself a viola player and R.R. Keshavamurthy’s student. The R.R. Keshavamurthy Foundation in Bengaluru presented Balamuralikrishna the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016. “We came to Chennai and presented this to him on October 13, perhaps one of the last that he received,” says Venkatesh.
The iconic 111-year-old, Bangalore Gayana Samaja, oldest sabha in the country, is being renovated. “Finish it fast The members of the R.R. Keshavamurthy Foundation presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the maestro last month. and preserve the heritage,” the maestro had said. The plan was to inaugurate it with his concert. The president Dr. M.R.V. Prasad, is sad that it cannot happen.
Violinist brothers, Mysore M. Nagaraj and M. Manjunath have the distinction of having accompanied Balamuralikrishna the most (as Karnataka artists). Nearly 200 concerts and extensive travel with him across India, Europe, the U.K. and the U.S.
“He made coffee and sandwich for us when we were touring in the U.K.,” recalls Manjunath. Uddina Vade ice cream was a favourite. The maestro could eat anything before, after and during a concert, but never complained of a throat problem. “If I can have as a vocalist, why can’t you as violinists have fun,” he would tease them. So casual was he that he would go over to violin Mahadevappa’s house (Mysore brothers’ father) to have Mysore rasam.
“I have played for him at several concerts in India,” says Sukanya Ramgopal, ghatam exponent. In the 1990s, when he took up a Dasarapada in Nellore, he instantaneously translated it into Telugu, and had them in alternate lines. Such was his vidwat,” she recalls.
“‘Start composing for a healthier and more creative mind’,” was his advice, says M.G. Venkataraghavan from Mysore, who spent six years with the maestro in gurukulavasam. “He would test our skills by giving us notations. We had to practise and go back with the song, all sangatis intact,” adds Venkataraghavan.