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! Abheri, Hamsavinodini, Dhenuka are few of them. Similarly a few compositions that I instantly associate with him are, Seethamma Mayamma, Nagumomu gananeni, Teliyaleru rama, Pibare Rama rasam, Omkara Aakarini, Hariye 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 Kutoohalam, Hindolam, 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!!