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Listen to recordings of past masters, Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna tells youngsters
CHENNAI, January 4: Upcoming Carnatic vocalist Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna wants youngsters who aspire to become musicians to listen to the music recordings of yester-year greats. It is a sure first step towards learning a lot. How to get the atmosphere of the raga? How did they approach a raga? One can learn all these by listening to their recorded music, he says.

Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna is a big fan of former time great S. Kalyanaraman. "Every song and every kalpana swara he sang had something new in it. Not a single composition sung by him was anywhere near ordinary," he points out. "It is of paramount importance for upcoming artistes to listen to yester-year greats, ‘’ he feels. "You just think of the atmosphere they create in your home when you listen to their music on tape. When you listen on tape Semmangudi singing a Khamboji, the whole room is full of Khamboji," he says. "You may well imagine the kind of an atmosphere he would have created in a concert hall," he adds. This rising star loves to listen to the music of TMT, Semmangudi, T.N. Seshagopalan, Neveyli Santhanagopalan, P.S. Narayanaswamy, T.M. Krishna, Sanjay and Vijay Shiva.

What is the role of an artiste? "To be himself or herself," pat comes the reply from him. Often times, it is the intuitive feeling of an artiste that drives musical content in his/her presentation. Does he think music is bunched in Marghazi? For him, Marghazi "is a climax for a year". "This season is what I wait for and look for," he says. For boy Balamuralikrishna, Marghazi presented magic moments, as he hopped from sabha to sabha to listen to his favourite artistes. Artiste Balamuralikrishna, however, now discovers the same magic moments in Marghazi by presenting concerts! What crosses him mind when he gives a concert? "We don’t go there to think about money," says he. "I feel satisfied when I give my best in a concert," declares Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna.

The young vocalist is of the view that "music and just music’ should preoccupy the mind of an artiste. In this context, he points out how yester-year artistes had so much training and enough leisure time to just thing of music without any compulsion for completing a UG or PG. In the modern day, "the thought process in a musician is to have a side-by-side academic qualification," he points out. "Today, we see a paradigm shift in the level of acceptance of young children by the audience. I am absolutely happy about it," he says. "The way Generation Next is approaching music as a profession is better and mature," he points out. With the increase in platforms, has the quality of music come down? Not at all, says he. "Musically speaking, there is no dip in the quality," he asserts. "Public acceptance is something else, however," he argues. The passion for music has made Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna to give up on many things – from spicy food to sweets and oily stuffs. So much so, he takes care of his voice.

Thought just 25 years of age, he is already a recognizable face in the Carnatic music world. Twenty concerts this music season speaks volume for the popularity of this fast-coming up vocalist. He breathes music. For him, everything in life revolves around his voice. He keeps the talk less and lets the melody of his voice weave a cobweb around his ever expanding fans. Born and brought up in the suburb Tambaram, this lone son of his parents has planned his way to be a musician. He did his schooling at Sankara Vidyalaya. He graduated in commerce from Madras Christian College and went on to do Masters in the same college. After M.Com, he joined the Madras University for a Masters course in music. For him, PG (post-graduation) in commerce was just a `contingency plan’. Why did he pick commerce at MCC? It is not difficult to decipher the reason. He lives near the MCC. Hence, he opts for MCC. He needs time to pursue his passion for music. No surprise that he picks Commerce as his subject for under graduation. Young Balamuralikrishna is clear in his thoughts and focused on his aim. He has gone about this task in a blinkered-horse like way. Given a choice between music and studies, he jumps for the first. So much so, he prefers to give a concert for Sri Krishna Gana Sabha on the morning of December 23, 2010 rather than giving his music exam at the University!

Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna had his formative lessons in music from his father Meenakshi Sundaram, who quit German Colour Lab to become a full-time music teacher. Not that his father had taught him the basics. Young Balamuralikrishna picked up a lot by hearing all the time to what his father had taught his students during music classes at home. "I have learnt a few varnams from him," he says. He had, for a brief while, learnt from Neyveli Santhanagopalan. "How to approach music… He (Santhanagopalan) showed me the way," he adds. Today, Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna is learning from P.S. Narayanaswamy. Learning is a work in progress for him.

From a child wonder to a performing boy and to a rising star – it has been a wonderful journey for the junior Balamuralikrishna. "I was very confident that I will become a professional artiste," declares he during a coffee chat at Rasam Restaurant here on January 3, 2010. He began performing when he was just eight. He started doing the sabha rounds at the age of 11. There was no looking back for him since then. For the last two seasons, he has been given the late evening slot by the The Music Academy. Well, it has been truly a northward journey for this young musician.