COVER STORY - A PRODIGY AND a genius by B.M. SUNDARAM
Not many performing artists or composers become legends in their own lifetime. The rare distinction belongs to Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, a leading exponent of Carnatic music for over six decades now. Balamuralikrishna hails from a family which considered music taboo. To the surprise and displeasure of his elders, Balamurali’s father Mangalampalli Pattabhiramayya took up music as his career. He was born in 1892 at Antarvedipalem, a tiny hamlet in the West Godavari district of Madras presidency, as the sixth child of a Vedic scholar, Venkataramayya. Kocharlakota Rama Raju, a composer and left-handed violinist, was his first guru. The tutelage lasted exactly six days! Venkataramayya then became a student of one Subramania Iyer of Pakshiteertham, who lived in nearby Yelamanchili. He travelled all over Tamil Nadu with his teacher, only to find the teacher abscond one fine day. Young Pattabhiramayya had to come back home. His next stop in music learning was at Pedda Kallepalli where he became a student of Susarla Dakshinamurti Sastri, a disciple of Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbier. After the demise of Sastri, Pattabhiramayya received advanced lessons in music from Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, the prime disciple of Susarla, settling down in Vijayawada. Early training In 1918, Pattabhiramayya married Suryakantamma, daughter of a renowned composer, Prayaga Rangayya. She came to Vijayawada to become a member of her husband’s household only in 1926. She was proficient in the veena and languages such as Sanskrit, Telugu and Hindi. Music was her life. Devoted to Gandhian principles, she spun the charkha and wore khadi all her life. On 6 July 1930, she gave birth to her only child – a boy – at Sankaraguptam, a tiny village where the Prayaga family was then living. The mother showered all her love and affection on the infant. At times she would whisper into his ears, as if revealing some secret. On the thirteenth day, Suryakantamma had a headache, followed by fever. Three days later, she passed away.
TRIBUTE - H. Yoganarasimham by VIKRAM SAMPATH
The princely state of Mysore was among the most musically vibrant and culturally sensitive kingdoms of pre-Independent India. Its impact on the growth of classical music has also been immense. Under the liberal patronage of the Wodeyar Maharajas of Mysore, the state emerged as a nucleus of cultural activity in south India. This melting pot of different cultures that Mysore became under its benevolent rulers fostered several luminaries in the performing arts. A less known, yet illustrious name in this list of the vaggeyakara tradition of Mysore is that of H. Yoganarasimham (1897-1971). The ‘H’ in his name stood for Holenarasipura, a place of pilgrimage on the banks of the river Hemavati, 40 miles from Mysore. Born on 17 May 1897, Yoganarasimham was one among the four children that his parents had. The urge for education led his father Naranappa to travel to Mysore from Holenarasipura by foot, with just a few annas in his pocket. He later found a job as an accountant to the Chief Engineer of the state. The musical orientation of Yoganarasimham came from the maternal side. His mother Lakshmidevamma learnt several compositions of the legendary composer Mysore Sadasiva Rao. Her brother was the eminent Harikatha vidwan, Krishna Bhagavatar. Yoganarasimham’s sister Gowramma supposedly sneaked up to the terrace whenever the neighbour was having a music lesson, listened with rapt attention and wrote down the notation on the wall. Mother and daughter would then practise it assiduously. It was this musical atmosphere at home right from childhood that laid the foundations in Yoganarasimham’s creative journey. Along with this he had ample opportunities to soak into the musically surcharged atmosphere of Mysore. Thanks to his innate talent, young Yoganarasimham was able to teach himself to a remarkable extent though it is not known whether he went to any particular guru for his early training. Through constant listening, contemplation, practice and association with musicians and scholars, he acquired with time, a highly refined and individualistic sense of music.
REMEMBERING - Kalakkad Ramanarayana Iyer by V. RAMNARAYAN
Kalakkad Ramanarayana Iyer, whose birth centenary fell on 10 October 2010, was a vocalist of considerable merit and stage presence. His father Kalakkad Subbiah Bhagavatar, known as “the Tirunelveli boy,” was a respected singer and teacher, among whose pupils was the nagaswara vidwan Karukurichi Arunachalam. Ramanarayanan was the second of seven children, five of them boys. Showing musical talent from an early age, he became a student of his father’s. His arangetram was held at the gurukulam of Va. Ve. Su. Iyer, the freedom fighter, in 1924. It was by all accounts a successful debut, the boy’s pleasant good looks and smiling countenance adding to a sweet voice. He was 14. His first concert at Madras took place in 1934 when Tiger Varadachariar opted out of a concert. Ramanarayana Iyer who performed at the Music Academy in the 1952 season, maintained his attractive stage presence all his career, with glittering earstuds, silk shirt and zari angavastram.
NEWS & NOTES - IDA festival : a kaleidoscope of dancers by S. JANAKI
The International Dance Alliance (Madras Chapter) and Narada Gana Sabha presented ‘Natya Samyoga’ on the occasion of IDA’s 26th anniversary, on 3 and 4 August in Chennai. Dr. Avvai Natarajan delivered the presidential address and honoured veteran Bharatanatyam exponent Lakshmi Vishwanathan and guru Krishnakumari Narendran. Leela Sekhar, Chairperson, IDA, who successfully steered the organisation for about 25 years, has handed over the reins to Radhika Shurajit and Revathi Ramachandran, the advisory committee members.