M. Balamuralikrishna

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Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna
M. Balamuralikrishna 01.jpg
Balamuralikrishna at Rajarani Music Festival, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Background information
Birth nameMangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
Born(1930-07-06)6 July 1930
Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District,
Madras Presidency, British India (now part of Andhra Pradesh, India)
Died22 November 2016(2016-11-22) (aged 86)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Genres Carnatic music
Instruments Viola
Years active1938–2016

Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna (Telugu : మంగళంపల్లి బాలమురళీకృష్ణ; 6 July 1930 – 22 November 2016) was an Indian Carnatic vocalist, musician, multi-instrumentalist, playback singer, composer, and character actor. [1] [2] He was awarded the Madras Music Academy's Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1978. He has garnered two National Film Awards (1976, 1987), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1975, the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honor in 1991, for his contribution towards arts, the Mahatma Gandhi Silver Medal from UNESCO in 1995, the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2005, the Sangeetha Kalanidhi by Madras Music Academy, and the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani in 1991, by the Fine Arts Society, Chennai to name a few. [3]


Balamuralikrishna started his career at the age of six. In his life-time, he gave over 25,000 concerts worldwide. [4] Apart from Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, he presented jugalbandi concerts (duets) with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Kishori Amonkar, among others. He is also known for popularizing the compositions of Sri Bhadrachala Ramadasu, Sri Annamacharya, and others.

Balamuralikrishna's concerts combined sophisticated vocal skills and rhythmic patterns of classical music with the popular demand for entertainment value. Balamuralikrishna presented concerts in many countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, countries in the Middle East, and elsewhere. Apart from his native tongue, Telugu, he has also composed in other languages including Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi. [5]

He appeared as a featured soloist with an award-winning British choir, performing the "Gitanjali Suite" with words from Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize-winning poetry and music by "Dr. Joel", the noted UK-based Goan composer. His clear diction in several languages prompted an invitation to record Tagore's entire Rabindra Sangeet compositions in Bengali, preserving them for posterity. He had sung in French, and even ventured into jazz fusion, collaborating with the top Carnatic percussion teacher, Sri T.H. Subash Chandran, in a concert for Malaysian royalty.

Early life

M. Balamuralikrishna during Rajarani Music Festival at Bhubaneswar on 19 January 2013 M. Balamuralikrishna 02.jpg
M. Balamuralikrishna during Rajarani Music Festival at Bhubaneswar on 19 January 2013

Balamuralikrishna was born in Sankaraguptam, East Godavari District, Madras Presidency (now a part of Andhra Pradesh state). [6] His father was a well known musician and his mother was a veena player. Balamuralikrishna's mother died when he was an infant and he was raised by his father. Observing his interest in music, his father put him under the tutelage of Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, a direct descendant of the shishya parampara (lineage of disciples) of Tyagaraja. [7] Under his guidance, the young Balamuralikrishna learned Carnatic music. At the age of eight, he gave his first full-fledged concert at a Thyagaraja Aradhana in Vijayawada. Musunuri Suryanarayana Murty Bhagavatar, a Harikatha performer, saw the musical talent in him and gave the prefix "Bala" (lit. child) to the young Balamuralikrishna. [8] (Prior to this, his name was Muralikrishna; following Bhagavatar's addition of the prefix, he began to be known as Balamuralikrishna.)

Having begun his musical career at a very young age, by age fifteen he had mastered all the 72 melakartha ragas and had composed krithis in each of them. His Janaka Raga Manjari was published in 1952 and recorded as Raagaanga Ravali in a nine-volume series by the Sangeeta Recording Company. [9] Not merely content with his fame as a Carnatic vocalist, he also played the kanjira, mridangam, viola, and violin. [10] [11] [12] He accompanied various musicians on the violin. He also presented solo viola concerts.He was the person who introduced viola to classical Indian music. [13] [14]


Balamuralikrishna performs in 2005 Balamurali-close-up.jpg
Balamuralikrishna performs in 2005

Characteristic of Balamuralikrishna's musical journey have been his non-conformism, spirit of experimentation, and boundless creativity. Balamuralikrishna has experimented with the Carnatic music system by keeping its rich tradition untouched. Ragas such as Ganapathi, Sarvashri, Mahati, Lavangi etc. are credited to him. The ragas which he invented represent his quest for new frontiers. Ragas such as Lavangi are set to three or four notes in ascending and descending scale. [9] Ragas such as Mahathi, Lavangi, Sidhdhi, Sumukham that he created have only four notes; while his other ragaa creations such as Sarva Sri, Omkaari, and Ganapathy have only three notes. [15]

He also innovated in the tala (rhythm) system. He has incorporated "gati bhEdam" (గతి భేదం) in the "sashabda kriya" (సశబ్ద క్రియ). Actions that can produce sound/shabda (శబ్ద) in talas are called sashabda kriya - సశబ్ద క్రియ and are a part of the existing Tala chain. New chains are possible, too. Saint Arunagirinaadhar used to inject such systems in his famous Thirupugazh, but only as Sandham, while Balamuralikrishna is known to be the pioneer in bringing such Sandhams into a logical rhythm, with Angam and definition. Trimukhi, Panchamukhi, Saptamukhi, and Navamukhi are the basic classifications in his New Tala System. [16]

He gave his authorisation to S. Ram Bharati to found "Academy of Performing Arts and Research" in Switzerland. He also worked on music therapy. He established the 'MBK Trust' with the objective of developing art and culture and for carrying out extensive research into music therapy. A dance and music school, 'Vipanchee' is a part of this Trust. [17] [15]


Balamuralikrishna has over 400 compositions to his credit and is one of the very few people to have composed in all the 72 Melakarta Ragas and has created several ragas, with 4 notes and 3 notes and also has invented a new Tala system. His compositions encompass every genre in Carnatic Music including Varnas, Krithis, Thillanas, Bhavageethas. [18]


Balamuralikrishna during a concert in Kuwait on 29 March 2006, accompanied by Mavelikkara Sathees Chandran (violin), Perunna G. Harikumar (mridangom), Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam) Balamuralikrishna in Kuwait.jpg
Balamuralikrishna during a concert in Kuwait on 29 March 2006, accompanied by Mavelikkara Sathees Chandran (violin), Perunna G. Harikumar (mridangom), Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam)
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna and Ravi Joshi, during a concert in San Francisco, California, April 2014 Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna and Ravi Joshi, California, April 2014.png
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna and Ravi Joshi, during a concert in San Francisco, California, April 2014

Balamuralikrishna has sung in several films in Telugu, Sanskrit, Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil. [19] He made his acting debut with the Telugu film Bhakta Prahlada (1967) as Narada, and has acted in a few other films in Telugu and Tamil. [16] [20]


Balamuralikrishna died at his residence in Chennai on 22 November 2016; he was 86. [21] His end came in deep sleep at around five in the evening, due to a cardiac arrest. He was cremated with full state honours at Besant Nagar Crematorium in Chennai the very next day. Thousands attended his funeral. He is survived by three daughters and three sons who are all Doctors. [22] His wife, Smt. Annapurna, outlived him for three months, and died on 16 February 2017.


His family has formed the Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna Memorial Trust to represent him after his death.

Awards and honours

Civilian honours

National Film Awards (India)

Kerala State Film Award

Tamil Nadu State Film Award

Other honours

A documentary film, The Melody Man, was made on his life by the Government of India Films Division. The film was directed by National award winner Director Gul Bahar Singh.

Ragas Created

Ragam ScaleRemarks
GanapatiArohanam: S G2 P S

Avarohanam: S P G2 S

LavangiArohanam: S R1 M1 D1 S

Avarohanam: S D1 M1 R1 S

Sarvasri (Trisakthi)Arohanam: S M1 P S

Avarohanam: S P M1 S

Renamed to Trisakthi
MahatiArohanam: S G3 P N2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 P G3 S

OmkaariArohanam: S P S

Avarohanam: S P S

Mohana GandhiCreated in honor of Mahatma Gandhi
SushamaArohanam: S R2 M1 P D1 S

Avarohanam: S D1 P M1 R2 S

Pushkara GodavariArohanam: S R2 M1 D2 S

Avarohanam: S D2 M1 R2 S

On the occasion of Godavari Pushakaras
Jaya Jaya LalitheIn honor of Tamilnadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha

Talas Created

The 'Mukhi' Tala system builds on the traditional Adhi Tala or Chathusra Jaathi Triputa Tala ( I 0 0 ), however the first kriya or mukha (meaning face) of each anga takes the gathi of its tala name and the rest in chathusra gathi. For example: Panchamukhi - the first kriya of each anga will be in kanda gathi and so the tala consists of 35 Matras (5 + 4 + 4 + 4 | 5 + 4 | 5 + 4 || ).

Following this method, four Talas can be generated:

The Mukhi Talas
Trimukkhi3 + 4 + 4 + 4 | 3 + 4 | 3 + 4 ||29
Panchamukhi5 + 4 + 4 + 4 | 5 + 4 | 5 + 4 || 35
Sapthamukhi7 + 4 + 4 + 4 | 7 + 4 | 7 + 4 || 41
Navamukhi9 + 4 + 4 + 4 | 9 + 4 | 9 + 4 || 47

This scheme can be extended across all 35 sooladi thalas, however currently these four are in practice.


There have been many pallavis set to panchamukhi Tala such as 'Isai inbathirku ēdillaye ivulakil - sentamil' in ragam Lathangi composed by Amrutha Venkatesh and 'Aadi Vaa, Pirai Soodi Vaa, Aalavaai Naathane' in ragam Abheri composed by Rameshvaidya and tuned by S.J Jananiy and also others in Bilahari, Thodi and Kalyani composed by Dr. Balamuralikrishna himself.

There have also been Alarippus composed for Bharathanatyam in Panchamukhi.

Selected compositions

Composition Ragam TypeRemarks
Omkaara Pranava Shanmukhapriya Pada Varnam
Amma Anandha dayini Gambhiranata Pada Varnam
Ye Naadhamu Naata Varnam
Chalamu Chaesina Ramapriya Varnam
Aapaala Gopaalamu Amritavarshini Varnam
Ninu Nera Nammithi Kharaharapriya Varnam
Sri Sakala Ganadhipa Palayamam Aarabhi Kriti Three Pallavis on Ganapathy, Maaruthi and Krishna
MahadevasuthamAarabhiKrition Ganapathy
Gam Gam GanapathimGanapathiKrition Ganapathi-Tri Tonal Raga: Sa Ga Pa
Ganaadhipam Nattai Krition Ganapathi
Pirai Aniyum Perumaan Hamsadhvani Krition Ganapathi
Uma Sutham NamaamiSarvasriKrition Ganapathi-Tri Tonal Raga: Sa Ma Pa
Mahaneeya NamasulivaeSumukhamKrition Ganapathi-Tetra Tonal Raga: Sa Ri Ma Ni
Omkara kariniLavangiKritiTetra Tonal Raga: Sa Ri Ma Dha
Sidhdhi Naayakena Amritavarshini Krition Ganapathi
Sidhdhim Dhehi MaeSidhdhiKrition Ganapathi-Tri Tonal Raga: Sa Ri Dha
Heera GanapathikiSuratiKritiOn Ganapathi
Mahaneeya Madhura MoorthaeMahathiKritiGuru Vandhanam-Tetra Tonal Raga: Sa Ga PA Ni
Guruni SmarimpumoHamsavinodhiniKritiGuru Vandhanam
Varuha Varuha Panthuvaraali Krition Muruha
Thunai Neeyae Charukesi Krition Muruha
Nee Dhaya RaadhaPoorvikalyaniKrition Ambika
Gathi Neeve Kalyani Krition Ambika
Siva Ganga Nagasvaravali Krition Ambika
Maa Maanini Thodi Krition Ambika-Swara Saahithyam
Amma Ninukori Kamas Krition Ambika
Gaana Maalinchi Kalyanavasantam Krition Ambika
Sadhaa Thava Paadha Shanmukhapriya Krition Siva
BruhadheeswaraKaanadaKrition Tanjore Bruhadheeswara
Thripura TharpaMangalam on Siva
Kamala Dhalaayatha Bahudari Krition Nethra Soundharya
ThillanaBrundhaavani Thillana Telugu Charanam
Thillana Chakravaaham Thillana
ThillanaDhwijaawanthiThillanaTamil Charanam
ThillanaKunthalvaraaliThillanaTamil and Telugu Charanam
Thillana Garudadhvani ThillanaPaanini Sutra Reference,
ThillanaBehagThillanaOn Sri Thyagaraja
Thillana Ragamalika ThillanaAmruthavarshini, Mohanam, Kannada and Hindolam
ThillanaRagamalikaThillanaTaaya Ragamaalika, Based on Sruthi Bhedam
ThillanaRagamalikaThillanaPancha "Priya" Raagas, with Gathi Bhedam
Maamava Gaana LolaRohiniKritiRagam using two Madhyamas
Gaana LolaRagamalikaKritiOn Thirupathi Venkateswara
Sangeethamae Kalyani KritiAbout Music
Nee Saati NeevaeChandrikaKrition Ranga,
Sankarabharana Sayanuda Sankarabharanam Krition Ranga
Vegamae Abhogi Krition Ranga
Hanuma Sarasangi Krition Hanuman
Vandhe Maatharam Ranjani Krition Bharatham
Gaana Sudha Rasa Naattai Krition Sri Thyagaraja
Sama Gana Amritavarshini Krition Sri Thyagaraja
Maragatha Simhasana Simhendra Madhyamam Krition Yadhagiri Narasimha
Simha Rupa Dheva Kambhoji Krition Narasimha
Raja Raja Sankarabharanam Krition Sri Raghavendhra
Chintayami satatam Sri Muttuswami Dikshitam Sucharitra Krition Muttuswami Dikshitar
Ambamamava Ragamalika KritiRanjani-Niranjani – Janaranjani
Bangaaru Murali Sringaara Ravali Neelambari KritiUdupi Sree Krishna
Bhaavame Mahaa Bhaagyamura Kapi KritiSri Thyagaraja to Balamuralikrishna-Guru Parampara
Paahi Sameera KumaaraMandariKritidescription of Panchamukha Hanuman
VasamaDharmavathiKritiprayer on Lalita Devi

Film compositions

Balamuralikrishna acted in few films and gave his voice to some selected songs in Indian cinema.

1957 Sati Savitri TeluguSong: Oho Ho Vilasala
1959 Jayabheri TeluguSuklaam Brahma Vichaara Saara Paramaam (Sloka)
1963 Karna TeluguSong: Neevu Nenu Valachitimi Nandaname Eduruga Nilichitimi
1963 Nartanasala TeluguSong: Salalitha Raga Sudharasa Saaram
1965Dorikite DongaluTeluguSong: Tirupativasa Srivenkatesa
1965 Kalai Kovil TamilSong: Thanga Radham Vandhadhu
1965Uyyala JampalaTeluguEtiloni keratalu
1965 Thiruvilayadal TamilSong: Oru Naal Pothuma
1966 Palnati Yudham TeluguSinger: Seelamu Galavari Chinavada
1966 Srikakula Andhra Mahavishnu Katha TeluguSinger: Vasanta Gaaliki Valapulu rega
1966 Sadhu Mirandal TamilSinger: Arulvaaye Nee Arulvaaye
1967 Bhakta Prahlada TeluguActed as Narada
Song: Aadi Anaadiyu Neeve Deva Narada Sannuta Narayana,
Siri Siri Laali Chinnari Laali,
Varamosage Vanamali Naa Vanchitammu Neraverunuga
1968 Kodungallooramma MalayalamSongs: Kodungallooramme
1970 Kanmalar TamilSong: Odhuvaar Un Peyar
Song: Ambalathu Nadaraja
1973 Andala Ramudu TeluguSong: Paluke Banagamayera Andala Rama
1974Sree Rama Anjaneya YuddhamTeluguSong: Meluko Srirama Meluko Raghurama
Karunalola Narayana Sritajanapala Deenavana
1975 Hamsageethe KannadaMusic director and Singer
1975 Muthyala Muggu TeluguSong: Srirama Jayarama Seetarama
1977 Kurukshetram TeluguSong: Kuppinchi Egasina Kundalambula Kanthi (Padyam)
1977 Kavikkuyil TamilSong: Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiraan
1977 Navarathinam TamilSong: Kuruvikkara Machane
1977 Poojakkedukkatha Pookkal MalayalamSongs: Kannante Kavilil Nin
Nabhassil Mukilinte
1979 Guppedu Manasu TeluguSong: Mauname Nee Bhasha O Mooga Manasa
1979 Nool Veli TamilSong: Mounathil Vilayadum
1982 Ente Mohangal Poovaninju MalayalamSong:
1983 Adi Shankaracharya SanskritMusic director
1983 Meghasandesam TeluguSong: Paadana Vani Kalyaniga
1983 Miruthanga Chakravarthi TamilSong: Idhu ketka thigatttatha Gaanam
1986 Madhvacharya KannadaMusic director and Singer
1987 Swathi Thirunal MalayalamSong: Moksha Mukalada
Winner, Kerala State Film Award for Best Singer
1990 Muthina Haara KannadaSong: Devaru Hoseda Premada Daara
1991 Bharatham MalayalamSong: "Raajamathangi" ("Dhwani prasadham")
1993 Bhagvad Gita SanskritMusic director
1994 Indhu/Pattasu TamilSong: Nagumo
1997 Priyamaina Srivaaru TeluguSong: Jatakalu Kalisevela Jeevitalu Mugisaayi
2009 Pasanga TamilSong: Anbaley Azhgagum Veedu
2015 Prabha TamilSong: "Poove Pesum Poove" (Music Director - S. J. Jananiy)

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Further reading