On the occasion of vidwan M. Balamuralikrishna’s 93rd birth anniversary, Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha organised a concert by Chivukula Venkata Pery Sastry. The concert particularly showcased Balamuralikrishna’s contributions as a prolific modern-day composer.
Beginning with a bright well-paced rendering of BMK’s Nattai varnam, C.V.P. Sastry and his team of musicians comprising K.V. Krishna on the violin, Burra Sriram on the mridangam and Sainath on the ghatam, laid the course of the concert.
‘Shree sakalaganadhipa’ in Arabhi was rendered next. This song by Balamuralikrishna collectively invokes the deities Ganesha, Hanuman and Krishna and is, perhaps, the only composition to do so. Preceded by a well-constructed alapana, the vocalist managed to paint a good picture of the raga, notwithstanding a few minor shruti lapses and faltering in the tara sthayi. K.V. Krishna’s violin solo was spontaneous, devoid of long pauses between phrases. The song, poetically penned and filled with alliteration, was sung with madhyamakala swaras at the pallavi.
Neat raga essays
Two ragas created by Balamuralikrishna — Mahati and Lavangi — were rendered successively. Though these ragas comprise only four swaras, Balamuralikrishna demonstrated their potential through his creativity. While one may assume that Mahati presents a limited potential for expansion due to its nature, Sastry utilised janta phrases and kanakkus in his swarakalpana passages to erase such notions. Sastry and Krishna presented a neat delineation of the raga in their alapana preceding the kriti ‘Mahaneeya madhura murte’.
Lavangi, a poignant raga, brought alive the memory of Balamuralikrishna, who was renowned for his powerful and enthusiastic rendition of this unique scale. The brief raga alapana by Sastry was filled with akarams and graceful transitions across octaves, a characteristic of this raga. The evergreen composition ‘Omkarakarini’ was sung with kalpanaswaras in both kalams.
The main raga of the day, Purvikalyani, was dealt with expansively by Sastry, who dexterously laid out a rich contour of the raga that was punctuated by brigas at almost all points of nyasa. However, since he was not at ease in the upper ranges, the excessive reliance on brigas slightly distracted the listener. K.V. Krishna’s inventive raga alapana demonstrated his swiftness and ability to mirror the vocalist’s sylistic approach to the raga, without compromising on originality.
‘Nee daya rada’, another composition by Balamuralikrishna, set to Adi tala, was energetically rendered with niraval and kalpanaswaras at the line ‘Kallalaaduchunu kapata veshinai’. One must acknowledge that the presentation of this kriti was enhanced due to the admirable sarvalaghu patterns provided by Burra Sairam and Sainath. Although Sastry presented the kriti with a clean no-frills approach, the duration of the kalpanaswaras could have been slightly less given the overall scheme of the kutcheri.
As a tribute to Balamuralikrishna, Sastry next presented an RTP in Bhairavi set to Khanda Triputa Thalam. The Pallavi was in Dvinadai — the Purvanga in Chaturasra and Uttaranga in Tisra. The words of the Pallavi were ‘Sangita sadguna sampannudu, Balamuralikrishnudu’ (later alternating as ‘Sangita saahiti sampannudu’) with both the eduppu and the arudhi kaarvai comprising four aksharas.
Due to time constraints, the raga alapana was concise and restricted, the tanam, though well-rendered, was abruptly cut short. The change in nadai provided a much-needed diversity in laya to the concert. The tani, played by Sairam and Sainath, was engaging and inspiring with intricate laya patterns interspersed with joyful stretches of sarvalaghu. The camaraderie of the artistes on stage was highly commendable.
Sastry rendered Balamuralikrishna’s Kuntalavarali thillana in Adi tala, which is a true test of an artiste’s command over laya. His enunciation of the thillana syllables closely resembled the legendary vocalist. Sastry’s adept maneuvering of the swift-moving nadais and pacing put the spotlight on the thillana as a truly ‘Asamaanamaina (incomparable) thillana’.
Concluding with ‘Radhapate’ mangalam in Sindhubhairavi, the concert was a fitting tribute to the creative genius of Balamuralikrishna as a contemporary vaggeyakara and an unparalleled musician who challenged dominant narratives.