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Profiles of Artistes, Composers, Musicologists
Unless otherwise specified, the profiles in this section are from
The Garland, Another Garland, Yet Another Garland and The Fragrant Garland by Mr.N.Rajagopalan

Dr.S. BALACHANDER - A MAGNIFICIENT CLASSICIST.............(January 18, 1927-April 13, 1990)
Veena Balachander was the most colourful personality among Classical Carnatic artistes, an enlightened interpreter of Indian music and a multi-dimensional personality of vast parts, deep penetration and quick conception with few peers. He was
Percussionist, string artiste, mock dancer, singer, poet, man of letters, humourist, album collector, cine actor, playback singer, music composer, director, photographer, chess player, art addict and above all a firm believer in the sacredness of music.

Balachander himself had recorded:

He evolved his own style of playing veena which was close to vocal rendition described as gayaki style. He strode like colossus among musicians, music-lovers and others and he was an agnostic to criticism. An expert publicist, he never stopped to gain personal ends. That marks him out of the rest. He consciously placed himself on an elevated pedestal. That never prevented him from appreciating the good in others. Masculine assertiveness was part of his innate self and he departed at the pinnacle of his artistic expression, musical wisdom and technical wizardry.

He was a master of manipulation of the veena in vicranti or breath-taking speed with intensive and unusual gamakas of absolute virtuosity. His varied life is a leson to apprentices in dedication to and mastery in art. Whatever he touched was gold absolute. He dwarfed others by the unique personality and image he acquired. Veena was a humble instrument at his hands and his will prevailed always or was executed.

Grandson of Rao Saheb Vaidyanatha Ayyar, author of popular works on Audit, Accounts and Book-keeping and son of V.Sundaram Ayyar and Parvati alias Chellammal, Balachander was born at Madras in a home which pulsated, buzzed and buzzled with music and musicians. Father, an advocate who forsook law, was a connoisseur and patron of music. Brother S.Rajam (b.1919) is a brilliant exponent of classical music. Two sisters - Jayalakshmi and Saraswati were good singers. Instead of litigants, musicians thronged his house and in this congenial environment of melody, young Balachander grew thirting for acquisition of musicianship and advent He wrote:

"Not having had a 'Guru' and (by the bountiful grace of God) being entirely self-taught, I wish to acknowledge that the music of certain sangeetha vidwans had tremendously inspired and influenced me..."

His musical personality grew like the wild 'Tulasi' plant (sacred basil) in the classical music garden of cultured Mylapore with its magnificient temple, attractive tank, broad Madda streets and cultured habitation with his 'Nadu street' at the centre. The temple tower beckoned him to rise up to its height and the tank laid bare the depths of knowledge he could make his own. The broad streets drew his mind to the message of Tyagaraja in 'Chakkani Rajamarga'. Musical precocity was evident when he began playing on kanjira providing accompaniment to top artistes of the day. Started playing on harmonium, bulbul tara, tarshenai, dilruba, mridangam and tabla.

S.Rajam (18) and Balachander (10) gave duet concerts all over India and Sri Lanka under the name 'Prabhat Prodigy Stars' and 'South Indian Prodigies'. Like Lav & Kush, the two fair beautiful and talented boys were the rage of the day and cynosure of all eyes. When Santaram, the eminent film director, presented him with a tabla, Balachander was a percussionist already. But when Krishna Bai presented him with an old sitar on January 16, 1938 at Karachi, it acted as a catalyser taking him to a different mould from percussion to string, rhythm to melody and accompanist to soloist. At eighteen, he switched over to veena and there ensued a durable, spiritual association. He was a yogi who had scaled the magnificient heights of sadhana on veena. He had great respect for Karaikudi Sambasiva Ayyar. Quite soon, he evolved and reached the zenith of his own - the Balachander style. He could not stoop to play for the gallery. it looked as if he was a divine messenger deputed to lay down norms for play and concerts and a code of conduct for artistes. His was pure classical play bringing out the exhilarating panorama and depth of raga swaroopas on veena. Like Ekalavya and Sarabha Sastri, he assimilated the best and built his own musical edifices thereon. Environment, observation and assimilation (without regular tuitions) probably qualified him for unique experimentation and adventure in quest of the unexplored frontiers of melody and classical virtuosity. He averred:
"I have no 'guru' but God and
my music-making is an act of piety."

There have been precocious children but many a budding flower tends to fade out disappear. But perennial, fresh and fresher showers descended on this intellectual. Whatever he touched was grand, bold and unique.

He made his debut at the 'Model Hall', Mylapre as a vainika with Tiruvalangadu Sundaresa Ayyar and Ramnad Easwaran on violin and mridangam respectively. There was no occassion for the glittering artiste to look back till the Lord beckoned him at Bhilai. His concert orientation was to provide the audience what he thought they needed or should be given. His approach was that of a father, teacher, doctor and law-giver - all in one and one can easily trace the inspiration for the dictum expounded by him and extracted below to his staunch belief that 'music was a sacrement to him and his music was totally dedicated to God.
Titles & Honours:
Quite a large number like -
Kala Sikhamani
Veena Yogi
Nada Yogi
Veena Varaprasadi
Abhinava Narada
Vainika Swayambu
Raga Brahman
Nada Brahman
Veena Praveena
Vainika Kalanidhi
Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1977
D.Lit by World Academy of Arts & Culture, Tirupati


Scholarship, ability for attractive presentation and knowledge of epics were inherited from Sambamurti Ganapatigal of Thiruvidaimarudur near Kumbakonam. Versatility in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Sankrit was acquired while young and developed further. Musical training was with Tiger Varadachariar and Mudicondan Sabhapathi Ayyar.

The professors of colleges liked him and, in fact, notwithstanding the acquisition of all the above, the young man entered the service of the then Imperial Bank of India with the help of Mc Nichol, his professor in the Madras Christian College. The immense acquisition of knowledge in ancient lore, languages and the background of story-telling were not lost in spite of time bound, routine of work in the bank . Harikatha or musical discourse was taken up in spare time but it grew into a mighty exercise as years rolled on.

The devout anxious to hear the epics, the young and old to hear stories, ancedotes and songs flocked to hear him. His brother, T.S.Vallisan, who had undergone musical training and is a vocalist, gave him support as 'second' in his discourses. The added attraction established the artiste as one of the few top musical discourse artistes of the day for the last several decades after the departure of the earlier batch comprising Mangudi Chidambara Bhagavathar, etc.He has given discourses in English in the USA in 1983.

Honours :
' 'Sat Kathamrita Kalanidhi & Bharat Kesari - Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchipuram
"'Bala Vyasa' - Sri Sankaracharya of Sringeri
'Harikatha Ratnakara - Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi & Sringeri
Kalaimamani - Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram
'Sangita Kala Sikhamani' - Indian Fine Arts Society
'Gayaka Sikhamani' - Sabhas of Bombay
'Madhura Kala Praveena - Sadguru Sangita Samajam
'Nadakanal' - Nadakanal

V.BALAKRISHNAN - MUSICOLOGIST & PEDAGOGUE.............(b.May 12, 1926)
V.Balakrishnan was born at Kunnamkulam, Kerala of S.V.Venkatachala Ayyar. He studied music under M.R.Sankara Bhagavathar, his uncle and Ramakrishna Bhagavathar. At the age of 10, he made his debut on the auspicious day of Vinayaka Chaturthi. Studied at and got the diploma of 'Sangita Vidwan' from the Central College of Carnatic Music, Madras. He has given concerts and is more devoted to teaching and research. Balakrishnan has undergone a course in 'Research and Development of Musical Instruments' at the Sangita Vidyalaya, Madras, has composed songs, presented research papers and conducted musical quiz on the All India Radio. His disciples are well-placed.

Posts held :
' Music Teacher 1952-56
Demonstrator upto 1964
Lecturer in Musicology, Tamilnadu Govt. Music College, Madras from 1966 to 1984.

Dr.Balamuralikrishna born on 6.7.1930 at Sankaraguptam in Andhra Pradesh of Pattabiramiah and Suryakantam. He has made major contributions to the various fields of Classical Carnatic music, light music and the silver screen. A child prodigy, he learnt for a brief spell of six months from Parupalli Ramakrishnaiah Pantulu. He made his debut at Vijayawada at the Aradhana of his guru's guru Susarla Dakshinamurthy Sastri in 1938. His first radio concert was in 1939. Apart from vocal music, he was also proficient in playing the viola, violin, mridangam and kanjira.

He had accompanied several great vocalists like Ariyakudi, Chembai, Maharajapuram Santhanam, GNB and Parupalli on the violin. He has given Jugalbandhis and solo vocals without accompanists. He has composed about 300 kritis, varnams, tillanas, etc. Inspired by Swami Vimalananda of Kuttalam Mutt he has composed 72 songs in 72 melakarta ragas in sanskrit and Telugu. Murali is his mudra. He has created new ragas and talas.

He has toured several countries such as USA, Canada, France, Italy, Singapore, USSR, Malaysia, SriLanka.. He has received numerous awards and titles, a few of which are - "Presidential Medal" in 1953; "Padma Sri" in 1971 from the President; "Sangita Kalanidhi" in 1975 from the Music Academy, Chennai; "Sur Singer" in 1975 from Sangeeth Peeth, Mumbai; Doctorate (Honoris Causa) in 1975 from the Andhra University; "National Award for best music director" in 1975; "Karnataka Award for best music director" in 1976; "National Award for best male playback singer" in 1987; "Padma Vibushan" from the President of India; "Sangita Kala Nipuna" in 1987 from the Mylapore Fine Arts Society; "Sangita Kala Sikhamani in 1991 from the Indian Fine Arts Society; "Gayaka Ratnam" in 1992 from Sri Swati Tirunal Sangeetha Sabha"; "Saptagiri Sangita Vidwanmani in 1992 from Tyagaraja Trust, Tirupati.

Eminence with Popularity.............(1910-1965)

It was festival in the Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore, Madras. The top artiste to give the concert of the day did not turn up and the temple authorities were in a quandry. They decided upon the substitute and proceeded to meet G.V.Narayanaswamy Ayyar, Head Master, Hindu High School, Triplicane to depute his young son, Balasubramaniam to take the concert. Narayanaswamy Ayyar could not comprehend the request and was as confounded as Dasaratha was when sage Viswamitra wanted him to depute his son Rama. The authorities pointed out that Ariyakudi Ramanuja Ayyangar shot into fame only in similar circumstances by ascending the dias when the senior Vidwan Madurai Pushpavanam failed to turn up and had never an occassion to look back.

The parallel thrilled the ear of the father. He acceded and the son gave the concert, a memorable debut in which his guru Madurai Subramaniam and Pudukottai Vakil K.Rajamani accompanied on violin and mridangam. Fame and glory crowned G.N.Balasubramaniam quite soon even as the eastern sun in summer shoots into the sky and spreads its floodlight with dynamic speed and no twilight. Balasubramaniam was born on June 6, 1910 at Gudalur in Mayiladuthurai taluk. He studied in the Wesley College while learning music under his father, a disciple of Karur Chinnaswamy Ayyar and under Madurai Subramania Ayyar. He obtained his B.A. (Hons.) in 1929.
GNB, as he was popularly known, was a top vocalist of repute in a period which had seen fairly a large number of top-ranking musicians. His bracing, resonant and impressive voice and his special style rich with brisk brikas and pleasing delivery of kritis was a satisfying and thrilling experience to the vast concourse of admirers. His unique style, regulated tempo and masterly delivery were the delights of the audience. His melifluous voice would traverse the three octaves and the three 'kalas' with ease. His brikas were infectious and he kept his ears and mind open to receive what was best in other musicians. He had high respect for Ariyakudi Ramanuja Ayyangar, the senior artiste of eminence. He had a partiality for Todi, Kalyani and Kamboji and for Andolika, Nalinakanti, Vasantabairavi, Jothiswarupini, etc. His disciple, Trichur V.Ramachandran states that his master's style was essentially of a madhyamakala which sustained the interest of the audience. His command of ragalakshanas was amazing revealing the quintessence of the ragas at the very outset. His singing was crisp and 'sangatis' measured.
GNB was one of the prominent composers of recent decades. Out of his 250 compositions in sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil in traditional and his own invented ragas like Chandrahasita, Sivasakti, Amrita Behag, etc., sixty had been published. A gentleman with humility as he was, he would not sing his own compositions in concerts. His respect for values was prodigious. He would return the nominal honoraria he got from the Music Academy as donation. A further feature of his concerts was that he would review the performances of his accompanists and his own. His joy would be immense at the excellence of others. He had a soft heart for rising artistes. His anxiety to satisfy the susceptibilities of the audience was immense.
Even as a boy, he had taken part in musical and dramatic activities in the Hindu High School which he joined in the sixth standard. Later he took the lead role of Dushyant in the famous Tamil film 'Sakuntala' in which another great musician, M.S.Subbulakshmi was the heroine. He had played the role of 'Narada' in the films Bhama Vijayam and Sathi Anasuya. Udayanan, Vasavadatha is another film in which he had acted. He was also pleased with the rendition of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan that he became an ardent devotee of Khan. 

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