Dr. Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, known simply as Balamurali to the multitude of his fans around the world, is one of the most celebrated of creative musicians of recent times. Apart from enthralling audiences across the world with his vast repertoire of ragas and compositions in his amazingly rich and melodious voice, Balamurali has credited himself as a vaggeyakara by creating over 400 compositions of various types ? varnams, krithis, and thillanas. In addition, Balamurali has also fashioned several new ragas and an entirely new tala system. Balamurali was born in a small village Shankaraguptham in the rather remote parts of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh on the 6th of July 1930, to Pattabhiramayya and Suryakanthamma. Both his parents were deeply into music; Pattabhiramayya having been an accomplished flautist while Suryakanthamma was adept at playing the veena.
Balamurali started exhibiting a penchant for music at a very early age. Pattabhiramayya entrusted his son to the renowned Vidwan Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, who was in the direct Sishya-Parampara of Thyagaraja (as Balamurali captures it beautifully in one of compositions, his Guru Ramakrishnayya Pantulu?s Guru was Susarla Dakshinamurthy whose Guru was Manambuchavadi Venkata Subbayya who in turn was a direct disciple of Thyagaraja).
The child prodigy in Balamurali came to the fore at the tender age of eight when he presented a full-fledged concert, in a function at Vijayawada to felicitate Susarla Dakshinamurthy. Since that astounding performance, Balamurali has indeed been a trailblazer!
That Balamurali is endowed with truly extraordinary creative talents is abundantly evident from the fact that he composed krithis in all of the 72 melakartha ragas even as he was a teenager ? his Raganga Ravali was completed when he was all of 14 years! He went on to create many more compositions ? possibly the most enchanting and widely appreciated of which are his numerous thillanas. Each of Balamurali?s thillanas is an exciting combination of the essence of the ragas involved and intricate rhythmic patterns. Each of his compositions has individuality and a distinctive style that is entirely his.
While Balamurali?s voice is par excellence and holds the listeners captive, it is his musical genius that makes him stand apart from many others. The ability to incorporate swara endings with the eduppu, the harmonizing through different octaves, the ability to glide effortlessly in raga singing, the sheer intellect in formatting Pallavis, the unerring splitting (pada chheda) of sahitya are some of the fascinating talents that have made the knowledgable among rasikas acknowledge his genius.
It may come as a surprise to many that Balamurali is equally adept at playing the Violin, Viola, Mridangam and Kanjira!! In addition, he is a topranking composer of the instrumental ensemble of All India Radio, the Vadya Vrinda. He has accompanied stalwarts like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar(1944), GNBalasubramaniam(1943) and KV Narayanaswamy(1954) on the violin in the company of vidwans like Palghat Mani Iyer on the mridangam!!
For someone who started schooling in the sixth standard and opted out soon, had his first concert at the age of eight, his first radio programme at eleven, wrote his first book of songs at fourteen?life indeed has been one long musical journey, full of harmony and melody to his plethora of fans. As he has himself said many times, he does not conform to a particular convention or style and sings in the ?Balamurali? bani or Paddhati.
Balamurali has been honoured with any number awards, perhaps the most significant among them being the Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India and the Chevalier des Arts et Letters by the French Government.