Mee Nagumomu! – a tribute to Balamurali Krishna garu!!

22nd November 2016, around 6 PM, is when I heard THE news that Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna garu is no more! I didn’t know how to react or respond and I honestly don’t exactly remember completely what I talked/did next few minutes.

Balamurali garu is one of the greatest influencers of my life, especially in Music stream. I have grown up watching him sing multiple times on the TV! Those were the days when I didn’t even know anything about music (not that I know anything now!). What possibly attracted me the most are his presentation skills and facial expressions, initially. 🙂

The attraction slowly transformed into liking his music, so much so, that sometimes I used to argue with my sister (who has been pursuing music for many years then), that “this phrase has to be sung like this (only)”. Only later did I realize that there are multiple ways of presenting (what we call sangathis).

Gradually as I started watching him more and in parallel listening to my sister as she was practicing, I started singing along without proper training. In the hindsight, only in recent few years I started to realize how bad I am and have been at that! Any song that I was singing, had his expressions on my mind and slowly my mother started saying (or complaining) my facial expressions and hand movements resemble those of him while singing. I took it jovially and always laughed off, but this is a real confession… I always had him on my mind while singing something and no wonder, the best I could do is try to emulate him in physical expressions ONLY, because the magic and technicalities behind it are unattainable by anyone! Simply.. Na Bhooto, Na Bhavishyati!

I have listened to him so much that, when I listen to some ragas (from any other performer too), I instantly associate them with his voice! AbheriHamsavinodiniDhenuka are few of them. Similarly a few compositions that I instantly associate with him are, Seethamma MayammaNagumomu gananeniTeliyaleru ramaPibare Rama rasamOmkara AakariniHariye gathi, etc, with Nagumomu being the favorite. What a coincidence, he always wore a Nagumomu! 😀

Around 14 years back, one evening, I was a little feverish and weak, lying on my bed at home. My mother turned on a programme by Balamurali garu and I heard him sing Hariye gathi.. and believe it or not, at the end of it, I actually woke up and felt really normal. Power of music obviously, but it has also got to do with the performer there, undoubtedly!

I always felt overwhelmed when I understood even some small nuances in his singing, given the kind of towering personality he is! In Kalpana Swaras, “Sa Ga Ma Pa Nee Nagumomu” using Nishadham as sahityam (Ni as a swara aksharam – indicating your (nee) smiling face (nagumomu)) and looking at one of his co-artistes with his trademark smile! His use of swara aksharams and raga mudhra in pallavis are a treat to listeners! Once I heard, “Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Saptaswara.. Rishabhapriyam” as pallavi with swaraksharams and the name of ragam (Rishabhapriya) featuring in it! His Thillanas were always special, especially Kadana KutoohalamHindolam, etc!

Thanks to SPIC MACAY, when I got chance to meet him once finally on Oct 31, 2015 and take care of his requirements, I felt it as one of the heaviest responsibilities ever undertaken. I didn’t have a proper night’s sleep before meeting him for the first time. I was astonished by his jovial and witty nature, while I only heard of his arrogance till then! That was the last time I ever had any thought of his arrogance. He is so sweet and I am sure he has always been!

Balamurali garu, as his name indicates, is a child (Bala) at heart. His naughty smile while saying “గోడ దూకి వెళ్ళిపోవచ్చు Music Academy కి ఇంటి నుంచి” (you can jump over a wall from my home and get into the Music Academy”, or his reply “I will mind, and mind that we should meet soon again” when I asked him to not mind if I caused him any discomfort, were a testimony of him being a child at heart!

His last words for me were, “మళ్ళీ త్వరలో కలుసుకోవాలి, ఉంటాను!”, meaning “we should meet again soon, leaving for now!” but we never met again! Nature has been very kind to have given me a chance to meet him once and I am ever thankful for it!!

Balamurali garu’s infectious smile is and will always be in my eyes, last few words with me in my ears and his spongy palms which I held with both hands, in my hands, forever!!

May you rest in peace, Guruvu garu, and enthral audience in the different world now and forever!!

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Lalgudi Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi – M A Narasimhachar Music Foundation – 18 November, 2016

Lalgudi siblings, Sri Krishnan and Smt. Vijayalakshmi, presented a delightful Violin duet concert, with Sri K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Sri Phanindra Bhaskara on Ghatam.

  1. <Missed a few compositions, as I arrived late>
  2. Seethapathe – Khamas
  3. Mayamma yanine – Ahiri
  4. Manasu karugademi – Hamsadhwani
  5. Kaligiyunte – Keeravani
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kosalam
  7. <Couldn’t identify composition> – Kapi?
  8. Thillana – Pahaadi
  9. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

I had unfortunately missed initial 30 minutes or more of this beautiful concert and while I was driving to this concert, I was hoping to listen to Khamas. Bang on! The first composition that I heard in the evening was in Khamas! A short and beautiful aalapana followed by Saint Thyagaraja’s Seethapathe. A very delightful Niraval towards the end, from both, was a treat for the ears!

Syama Sastry’s Mayamma in Ahiri was full of bhavam and I wouldn’t have been surprised if any one in the audience had actually wept listening to it! Oh, that bowing!! It probably requires a tapas of an entire life to be able to do that kind of controlled bowing!

Brief Hamsadhwani followed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s Manasu Karugademi pumped the energy levels of everyone, with a wonderful rounds of fast paced Kalpana swaras.

Keeravani. What should I write about this?! Very detailed, soulful aalapana by both the siblings. It was like being in a different world altogether, and wished it could go on forever!! I would have heard the composition Kaligiyunte by the great Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir, which is in my collection, many times. I felt he was playing it in their form, on the stage this evening! Kalpana Swaras are a special feature of Lalgudi Bani and what a remarkable way to end the main composition it was! Soft, elegant and melodious! I have often confessed that KUJ is my favorite current generation Mridangam artiste and he was fabulous in this concert. Very gentle, as soft as the sound from Lalgudis’ Violin! Lovely Tani Avarthanam by him and Phanindra made the main piece, grand!

Krishnan announced the concert is going to end exactly at 9 and hence directly jumping into Ragam Tanam Pallavi. Kosalam (71st Melakarta ragam) this time. I have never heard the ragam on stage and this was fabulous. Pallavi Kamalavadani Karunakari KamaladalaNayani, was in Khanda Triputa Talam. I liked the pallavi very much, more so, because I understood it! Ragamalika swaras in Sahana, Ananda Bhairavi (well, I wanted to request Ananda Bhairavi if I had reached early – but it was checked too in some way!), Varali, Janaranjani, ? (couldn’t notice) and Hamir Kalyani ended, what was a lovely RTP!

The concert ended with Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir’s Thillana in ragam Pahaadi, followed by traditional Mangalam.

Overall, a great concert with sound quality way better than many places, and my fond memories with this Our School Auditorium continue!!

T M Krishna, H K Venkatram & Ashwin Anand – Bhoomija – 12 November, 2016

This is a special collaboration by Sri T M Krishna (Vocal), Guru Sri H K Venkatram (Violin) and Sri Ashwin Anand (Veena). TMK announced that Veena – Venu – Violin concerts are very popular since being conceptualised by Lalgudi Jayaraman – N Ramani – R Venkataraman many decades back and even today. However, he said, instrumental concerts and vocal concerts have always been in different paths and have seldom converged as a collaboration (not considering the regular concerts with ‘so-called’ accompanying instrument or pakka vadyam) and this Veena – Vocal – Violin concert is one of those attempts to see how it works!

TMK – HKV Sir – AA performed with Sri Arun Prakash (Mridangam) and Sri N Guruprasad (Ghatam). One of the special things I noticed in this concert is, TMK announced almost every composition that was being presented, and with a bit of background, as applicable.

  1. Mallari – GambhiraNaata
  2. Sri Krishnam Bhaja Maanasa – Todi (preceded by Ragamalika in free style)
  3. Ragam Tanam Varnam – Navaragamalika
  4. Thillana – MohanaKalyani
  5. Nottuswaram (Ramachandram)

The concert started with a brief Tanam in GambhiraNaata and the Mallari that followed in Misra Jathi Jhampa Talam, was very nice and refreshing to listen. It started in ultra-slow motion and gradually transitioned into different nadais. After a brief round of swaras, the Tani Avarthanam followed, which marked a great start to the concert!

The next composition preceded with a Ragamalika aalapana in free style, transitioning from one ragam to the other, seamlessly, alternating their turns, in the order – AA, TMK, HKV Sir. Shanmukhapriya, Varali, Asaveri, Mukhari, Salaga Bhairavi, Manirangu, Surati, Desh, Kapi, Dwijavanthi and finally a brief Todi aalapana and slokam in it, by TMK. The krithi Sree Krishnam Bhaja Maanasa was presented together by AA and HKV Sir, with TMK joining in the end, for a delightful Niraval at Shanka Chakra Gadha. Arun Prakash was outstanding with his Mridangam – felt as if a fourth melody track was running!!

Yet another Ragamalika – now in reverse order. Kedaram, Sankarabharanam and Kalyani (ragam) by HKV Sir, Begada (ragam), Kambhoji (Tanam) by TMK and YadukulaKambhoji, Bilahari, Mohanam and Sree (Tanam) by AA. By now, the composition was already guessed! One of my favorite varnams, just in one speed followed. A special round of swaras in the end – in the reverse order, from Sree to Kedaram was taken up by each, alternating among themselves. Very interesting!! A mini, soft Tani Avarthanam made it even special!! Both Arun Prakash and Guruprasad were amazing!

Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir’s MohanaKalyani Thillana followed. This was a tad slower than what I heard a thousand (or more) times from Lalgudis. Nonetheless, as special, as always!

TMK announced how Sri Muttuswami Deekshitaar was inspired (or, [perhaps] tickled) by the Scottish and Irish light music bands in the British India to compose about 38 Nottuswarams. AA and HKV Sir presented the composition and TMK joined again to repeat it along with sahityam.

Overall, it was a very nice concert indeed, with a couple of ragamalika sections. I would have been happier if there was another composition in place of the long ragamalika as a prelude to the second composition.

Thanks to Bhoomija trust for bringing these kind of concerts to reality. Looking forward to many more of these concerts!!

DisclaimerPlease excuse me if I wrote anything incorrectly. I am a mere mortal and my knowledge in music is very limited to understand and explain things in greater detail!