Art and life

Not long ago the appearance of Balamuralikrishna in the Carnatic musical firmament was viewed with as much superstitious misgiving and suppressed chagrin as the appearance of a comet in the sky. Today one is gratified to

find that he is accepted as a genius and is even spoken of, sometimes, as great. To be called a genius is a doubtful compliment, for with the quality of genius one associates, as often as not, powers which are not assessable. But when one is called great, it is presumed that the adjective is used after proper assessment of the powers which are so characterised. What are those powers in Balamurali’s music which deserve to be called great? Its youthfulness and vitality? Its comprehensive sweep and variety? Or its casualness and suavity?

Or its sense of affirmation and joy? It could be said without a nagging feeling of overstatement that, to

Balamurali,65 music is not a profession or an art but a way of looking at things.

He could resolve the pathos of life into the madhyama of Devagandhari, its terrific urgency into the dhaivata of Todi, its basic tranquility into the gandhara of Sankarabharanam, its joy into the gamut of Mohanam and its sheen into the nishada of Kalyani. But Balamurali does not confine himself to these profound aspects of life alone. He interests himself as zestfully in a hundred inconsequential aspects of life—its humour, irony, laughter and queerness. And more than all, he is keenly aware of the enormous inconsistency of life, and of the ridiculousness of sententious pronouncements on it. His music is devoid of cynicism, that posion which is at the root of all misery and selfalienation.