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Musings of a maverick

M Balamuralikrishna
Rs 45

Dr Balamuralikrishna's singing has brought him phenomenal fame. He was among the first to modulate his voice to suit the tastes of an audience used to film music. He did take classical music to a larger audience, but in the process he also made entertainment, rather than aesthetics, his prime value.

Balamurali's voice glides easily between the high and low octaves, and one gets the feeling he just exploits the range of his voice instead of exploring the raga.

Kalyani on Side A is not the recognisable old raga, thanks to his unconventional stringing of notes. The essence of Kalyani is more evident in violinist Annavarapu Ramaswamy's sensitive attempts.

The Reethigowla piece, Sri Neelothpala Naayaki (Muthuswamy Dikshithar) is better rendered. But if the cajoling and dropping of the voice to a whisper is meant to highlight the raga, it fails, only indicating mastery over his voice and nothing else besides.

The neraval at Shyamakrishna sodari is also full of overdone excursions. The swara prasthara sounds as though it was meant for a film like Sankarabharanam! He makes the final Kalyani swara prasthara as straight and gamaka-free as an English note.

Amritavarshini takes up all of Side B. Very encouraging. In Karnatak as well as Hindustani, ragas are established through various pakkads or sancharas. The major part of exploring a raga is built around these sancharas. But that does not mean a mere stringing together of these. These form the backbone and the musician invests it with substance from his own creative intelligence and insight. Balamurali does not use these sancharas, and toys around with the notes of the raga. Definitely a good sign when a composer can look at a raga differently, but not while rendering a classical concert.

Guruvayoor Durai and T H Subashchandran stick to sound if staid percussion.

On the whole, disappointing if you want good, traditional Karnatak music, but if you like the musings of a maverick, you can go ahead and listen to this cassette.

S Suchitra Lata

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