Kunnakkudi M. Balamuralikrishna has evolved into a talented young vocal artist, popular with rasika-s and sabha organisers alike. A relative of the late violin maestro Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan, Bala’s paternal grandfather, Ramanatha Sastri was, besides being a ‘vaidika’, a musician who performed over AIR-Tiruchi. His father Meenakshisundaram is also a musician. He worked in Gemini Colour Laboratory for about ten years after which he has devoted all his time to teaching music in Tambaram and surrounding areas. Bala’s mother, a teacher of mathematics, can also play the veena. The musical ambience at home, sound training from his teachers, a robust voice, hard work and peer pressure have ensured that Balamuralikrishna is among the leading young musicians of today. The place name Kunnakudi was prefixed to young Balamuralikrishna’s name to clear the confusion created in the minds of concert-goers between him and Sangita Kalanidhi M. Balamuralikrishna, once the younger vidwan outgrew the “Master” tag attached to his name some four years ago.
Bala started learning music at the age of seven, simultaneously from his father and Vidwan V. Sundaresan who taught him Dikshitar’s navavarana and navagraha kriti-s. After short stints with A. Sundaresan and Neyveli Santhanagopalan, he has been undergoing tutelage under the eminent teacher P.S. Narayanaswamy for over fourteen years. His long-time co-disciple under PSN is Abhishek Raghuram, another rising star. Their close friendship is marked by healthy rivalry.
PSN is a broad-minded teacher. He does not compel his disciples to copy his style; instead he allows them to flower on their own, following their natural instincts and individual strengths. His role, apart from teaching kriti-s, includes pointing out deficiencies, grammatical or aesthetic, and suggesting improvements where necessary. Bala recalls that classes with his guru have never been time-bound and that he and Abhishek would sing swara-s and korvai-s alternately with the guru looking on, intruding only when necessary.
Bala has matured steadily over the years and is now a musician in good demand. According to his father, he has already given over four hundred public concerts in a period of thirteen years. His made his debut at the age of twelve under the banner of the Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer Trust. He has not looked back since. He has performed throughout India. He first visited the U.S.A. when he was just nineteen. Invited twice by the Cleveland Aradhana Committee, he has also been to Singapore, Australia, Sri Lanka and the middle-east on concert tours. Bala displays equal talent in all departments of vocal music – alapana, niraval, and swara-singing. His repertoire includes
some rare kriti-s. His special strength however is in the laya department, which he displays abundantly while singing korvais and ragam-tanam-pallavi. He underwent a year’s specialised training in pallavi-singing with vidwan B. Krishnamurthy under a scholarship instituted by the central Sangeet Natak Akademi. With his keen interest in laya, he studied mridanga under vidwan Karaikkudi Mani for over five years and is a competent mridanga player. However as vocal music is his first priority, his performances on mridanga are rare. Seniors such as T.K. Murthy, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, and Karaikkudi Mani have accompanied him on occasion in his vocal concerts.
Bala has enjoyed his share of titles – Ganamritamani, Yuvakalajyoti, Yuva Kala Bharati, and the Young Star Award (2008).He is an asthana vidwan of the Kanchi Mutt. He has also won prizes and awards from various city sabha-s. Bala has several cassettes and CDs released by major recording companies to his credit. He is a B-High artist of AIR.