Can a musician have a great flow to his music and yet be analytical?
Can a musician sing based on Lakshya without compromise to Lakshana?
Can a musician have discipline in his Kirthana singing despite having extraordinary Manodharma?
There was one musician who was a testimony to all the above.
He had many firsts to his name !
Introduced the concept of “Porutham” singing. When he sang Palintsu Kamakshi, he sang Kalpana Swaram for “Kanthamagu” . It was not the hackneyed MRSRM finish. He used to finish with phrases such as SNPNM, RMPNS and PNSRM and start Kanthamagu from the adjoining note. This was a huge innovation. Of course genius musicians such as Lalgudi Sir, Balamurali Sir and Seshagopalan Sir have taken a leaf out of his books and added Kanakkus to Poruthams and further embellished.
He introduced concept of Sruthi Bedham. He used to just show a glimpse of the child Raga and not dwell too much into it. When he elaborated Thodi, he would show a hint of Sankarabharanam at DnSrsnDD as SrGmgrSS and not wait for applause to come back to the original raga.
He brought back Manodharma sangitham at its best. Shri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar was known for his variety and brevity. This musician brought back an older era where raga alapana was given highest importance. He was known for his 4 stage alapana singing for Rtp’s. When he sang Shanmugapriya alapana, you would get a feeling that you are listening to the Magudi.
He introduced singing Hindustani ragas for Ragamalika Swaras such as Gavathi which used to have a mesmerising effect.
The Tamil thukkadas that he tuned and introduced were instant hits with the audience and till date, they resonate with the audience very well. I am asked to sing Kannanai Kanbadheppo and Sonnadhai Seidhida in many concerts that were tuned and popularized by him
Many people are of the view that he did not elaborate Kharaharapriya as that was a favourite of Shri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Lalgudi Sir mentioned to me that he sang a unique Kharaharapriya in Perambur Sangitha Sabha and many phrases were newly introduced by him.
His voice had magnetic attraction. A lot of people use brigas today but he was someone who did not compromise on the rakthi of the Raga or the gamakkam while singing brigas.
In his later years, a lot more Nidanam in his singing could be observed such as his rendition of ‘Karikalabhamukam’ in Saveri in Music Academy concert. In fact he was the one who set the Kriti as a swarakshara GR as Kari to start with.
Everyone talks about how he chose to sing Niraval in Thapathraya instead of Vasavadhi in Shri Subramanyaya. I am dumbstruck how he choose Kantiki in Emi Jesithe instead of Kama Moha Dasulai as the meaning gets distorted when the line is repeated for Niraval singing.
He did not sing any of his songs in concerts but for Paramakripasagari in Yadukulakambodhi as there were a few grammatically incorrect phrases in this Raga employed by the musicians then and that’s the reason why he sang this composition in his concert. He composed JaganMohana Krishna in Kadanakuthoohalam when he was singing in the queue to have Darshan of Shri Guruvayoorappan.
He had a penchant for choosing Sanskrit verses for virutham singing. And chose ragas such as Nayaki and Ahiri. Who can forget his Janathi Ramam?
What a lineage he has left with us! Each of his disciples had a unique style although the foundation was that of his. Smt ML Vasanthakumari, Shri Thanjavur Kalyanaraman, Shri Trichur Ramachandran to name a few.
I am a true Bhakth of this unparalleled genius musician G N Balasubramaniam whose anniversary falls today.