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New ragas for Ganesha

Balamurali breaks the classical principle
that a raga must have at least
five notes, and gains nothing in return

Dr M Balamuralikrishna

Charsur Digital Work Station
Rs 50

In this just-released tape Balamurali presents six compositions on Ganesha, all written, set to music and sung by him.

Charsur Digital Work Station is a studio in Chennai, and this is the first album under their label. The recording is excellent, and so is the cardboard packaging.

Balamurali opens with an invocation in Sarvasri, a new raga he has created. The alapana is brief; it hastily runs up and down three octaves. Umasutam namami stops and starts in the middle, abruptly, somewhat like a movie song straining for effect!

Sarvasri is a vakra jati four-note raga. It tries to find its identity in the sa-pa-ma phrase; the only other note it uses is ga. Classical wisdom holds that a raga makes no sense if it has less than five notes, but here is our maverick experimenting with just four! Can't say he's proved the classicists wrong.

Siddhi nayakena in Amritavarshini is a dignified composition, but its dignity is somewhat undermined by Balamurali again gliding up and down the scale. Nagai Murali on the violin plays with more restraint. K V Prasad's mrudangam sounds deep and stately.

Balamurali's Nata alapana puzzlingly brings to mind many other ragas. It takes the violinist to sketch out the raga's contours and put the listener at ease. The composition, Ganadipam, is more traditional and exploits the classical sangatis of Nata.

Mahaniya is set to raga Sumukham, another Balamurali discovery. This is followed by Mahadevasutamaham in Arabhi. For once the alapana sounds like the received idea of the raga.

Heera Ganapathiki, the concluding piece, respects raga Surati's form and expression.

Sarvarsri shows that Balamurali the singer does little justice to Balamurali the composer!

S Suchitra Lata

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