Carnatic music legend Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. He was 86 and was not well for some time. Apart from being a singer, Balamuralikrishna was also a composer, actor and multi-instrumentalist. He was also good at playing musical instruments like violin, viola, kanjira and mridangam.

Balamuralikrishna started his musical career at the tender age of six and had given over 25,000 concerts worldwide. He had composed over 400 compositions in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil. Balamuralikrishna was conferred the Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhusan awards by the Indian government.

Throughout his musical career, he was known for his penchant for experimenting with different genres and forms. He also invented several Carnatic ragas that are now well-known. 

He was born on 6 July 1930 in Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District, Madras Presidency (now a part of Andhra Pradesh state), Balamuralikrishna was exposed to the world of Carnatic music at a very young age. His father put him under the tutelage of Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, a direct descendant of the shishya parampara of Tyagaraja. He appeared for his first solo concert when he was merely eight years old.

Throughout his musical career, he was known for his penchant for experimenting with different genres and forms. He also invented several Carnatic ragas that are now well-known. 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. Ragas created by him, like Mahathi, Lavangi, Sidhdhi, Sumukham have only four notes; while Ragas created by him, like Sarva Sri, Omkaari, Ganapathy have only three notes.

He also innovated the tala system. He has incorporated gati bhedam in the sashabda kriya (actions in talas, which can produce sound/shabda are called sashabda kriya 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 has over 400 compositions to his credit and is one of the very few people to have composed in all the 72 Melakarta ragas and has created several ragas, with 4 notes and 3 notes and also has invented a new tala system. His compositions encompass every facet in Carnatic Music that includes Varnas, Krithis, Thillanas, Bhavageethas. 

Balamuralikrishna has sung in several films in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil. He made his acting debut with the Telugu film Bhakta Prahlada (1967) as Narada, and has acted in few films in Telugu and Tamil.

Balamuralikrishna died at his residence on 22 November 2016; he was 86. Balamuralikrishna is survived by his wife, three daughters, and three sons who are all doctors.

President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday condoled the death of noted Carnatic musician and said the “nation has lost a genius”.

“I am sad to learn about the passing away of the doyen of Carnatic music, Balamuralikrishna,” the President said in a condolence message to his wife Annapurna.”I pray to Almighty to give you and your family the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss,” he said.

He was ailing for some time.

The President said Balamuralikrishna, a child prodigy, enthralled music lovers in India and abroad with his unparalleled talent and marvellous compositions in various languages like Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil for around seven decades. 

He said Balamuralikrishna was known for his non-conformism, spirit of experimentation and abundant creativity. “He innovated the tala system and the Carnatic music system without disturbing its rich tradition. He was also involved in extensive research into music therapy.” 

With inputs from agencies


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