Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (Sankaraguptam, Andhra Pradesh, India, July 6, 1930) is a legendary Carnatic Music vocalist and musician. He has also composed a number of songs.
Balamuralikrishna was named Murali Krishna at birth. Musunuri Suryanarayana Murty Bhagavatar, a distinguished Harikatha performer, gave the prefix 'Bala' to the young Muralikrishna. This title has stuck to him ever since. Balamuralikrishna was a child prodigy and started performing vocal concerts from the age of five. His father was a well known musician and could play the flute, violin and the veena and his mother was an excellent veena player. Balamuralikrishna thus began his musical career at a very young age. He soon mastered a variety of instruments. He can play the violin, viola, khanjira, veena, mridangam and other instruments. He has been awarded the All India Radio's "Top Grade" for seven different performance areas and is also the only musician ever to win National Awards in India for classical music, music direction and film playback singing.
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna was born on July 6, 1930 at Sankaraguptam, a small village in Rajolu Taluk, East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh, to Mangalampalli Pattabhiramayya and Suryakanthamma. He began his musical career at an age when most children cling to their mother's apron strings. He inherited the musical traits of his parents. His father, Pattabhiramayya was a famous flautist and a music teacher and Suryakanthama was a notable veena artiste. His mother died when young Balamurali was just a 15 day-old baby. From then his maternal aunt Subbamma brought him up. When he was just two years old, Pattabhiramayya relocated to Vijayawada. At this very young age, Balamurali learnt the nuances of good music when his father taught his other disciples. Encouraged by this Pattabhiramayya entrusted him to 'Gayaka Sarvabhauma' Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu. In 1938, at the age of eight, during a temple festival held at Vijayawada, Balamurali Krishna gave his first vocal performance. Due to his continuous concerts, Pattabhiramayya was persuaded by his friends to let his young son dedicate himself completely to music and he stopped attending school when he was in the sixth grade.
Not merely content with his fame as a concert vocalist, very soon Balamurali proved his immense versatility by playing the Kanjira, Mridangam, Viola and Violin. When he was barely 14 years old, he composed Raganga-Ravali, a detailed work on the 72 Melakarta scheme. He mastered all the 72 melakarta ragas by the age 16 and had composed kritis in all of them by then.
Poet composer and musicologist, balamurali krishna has restored the trinity's composition to their original whole. he represents a new era in carnatic music. like the galaxy of giants before him, he has helped in tha preservation of the musical heritage in his own way.
Nearly 400 Carnatic musical compositions are credited to him. New ragas (Ganapathi, Mahati, Sumukham, Trisakthi, Sarvashri, Omkari, Janasamodini, Manorama, Rohini, Vallabhi, Lavangi, Pratimadhyamavathi, Sushama etc...) some with only three or four notes, and a new tala (rhythm) system are among his innovations. Such innovations have provoked many criticisms.
Balamurali Krishna has been invited to give concerts in almost every country in the world, including USA, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East etc. He has given more than 26,000 performances throughout the world.
While his native tongue is Telugu, he sings not only in Telugu but also in Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil etc.
Top Hindustani musicians have collaborated with him in "jugalbandhis" (duets): including Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar, among others.
He appeared as 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 has 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.
He has recently become increasingly interested in music therapy, and now performs only occasionally. He gave its authorization to S. Ram Bharati to found "Academy of Performing Arts and Research" in Switzerland and is also working 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 and is run by his managing trustee Kalaimamani Saraswati.
Balamurali was awarded the "Padma Vibhushan" title by the Indian government, the "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres" by the French government, the pro-chancellorship of Telugu University and numerous top musical honours including Sangeetha Kalanidhi (1978) of the Madras Music Academy. He was also conferred with the Raja-Lakshmi Award in the year 1980 by Sri Raja-Lakshmi Foundation, Chennai. The award "Sangeetha Saraswathi" instituted by Manava Seva Kendra was conferred on him by its founder-guardian Poojya Sri Guruji Viswanath, on 25th June 2005. He is an Honorary 'First citizen' of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and has a road named after him in that city.
Some of his other awards inclue: the 'Gana Sudhakara', 'Gayaka Sikhamani', 'Sur Singar', 'Geeta Kala Bharati', Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and Padmashri. He was chosen as the 'Wisdom Man of the Year in 1992'. He was also conferred seven doctorates (honorary Ph.D, D.Sc and D.Litt) as of 2006, by various universities such as Andhra University, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Sri Venkateswara University and the University of Hyderabad. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh honoured him with the 'Atma Gauravam' award in 1997. The Governor of Maharashtra honoured him for services rendered for the cause of National Integration. He is a state musician of the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and is the Asthana Vidwan of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, Sringeri Peetam and Anjenaya Swami Temple, Nanganallur.
He has created a world record by releasing over 250 audio cassettes brought out by the Sangeetha Recording Company.