Balamuralikrishna mesmerizes at Milapfest  
by Deepa Ganesh, Manchester  

August 7, 2004   

It was a long awaited Saturday and finally July 17th did arrive, it was Dr. Balamuralikrishna’s concert for Milapfest, the premier arts organisation in U.K. 

It was amazing with what energy and enthusiasm he came across after a five-hour drive and late lunch at the age of 74. After checking the stage and the auditorium and taking some rest, at 7 he was seated on stage, flanked by Balu Raghuraman on violin, Balachandran on mridangam, Pratap on the ghatam and dancer Saraswati who was compering.

with children from the audience
The mood was ethereal. It was a long awaited evening indeed. As I turned around, I saw many new South Indian faces apart from the usual mixed quality audience of Milap . I wonder where these people were earlier as I had never seen them anywhere in Manchester!! Nevertheless all were ready for a wonderful treat of that magical voice. 

Indeed the magic was just there. Every piece was special  - be it Gam Ganapathy in Ganapathy ragam (with only S G P in arohanam avarohanam) or the evergreen Lathangi Omkara. Kalyani, the main ragam of the evening arrived to stay. He was ably complemented by Balu Raghuraman’s elegant phrases on the violin.  The interesting, crisp tani avartanam of Balachandran and Pratap saw everyone sitting tight in their seats. As it was time to close, the swift Thillana in Hindolam beautifully cascaded from the heavy Kalyani to a soothing mangalam. I would have assumed that in any other occasion, a single Thillana would have been pretty abrupt after the main ragam. But I suppose Balamurali sir singing a Balamurali Thillana was a different ball game all together. It was an experience by itself. It is amazing how the soul really fills the space when the creator passionately dishes out his creation. 

After this wonderful concert, it was indeed a special occasion for many in the audience to get his blessings. Milap specially invited him outside the back stage to accommodate the large number of rasikas who were waiting to touch his feet, take photographs and get autographs or just a glimpse of his characteristic smile. To think that after all this he was driving back to London all the way, reaching there at 3.30 in the morning indeed made me tired just thinking about it!! 

This year Balamuralikrishna is conducting the 4th summer workshop for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the most prestigious arts institution in London. Year after year the children look forward for their intensive summer coaching in music with Balamuralikrishna and in dance with Saraswati for 3 weeks. There are three groups – inter, advanced and master classes with almost 25 – 30 children in each session. Elegantly dressed in kurta pyjama or pavadai, these children are really lucky to get this experience from the maestro for it is long since he has stopped teaching in India and abroad. As of now, he is only mentoring those sishyas who are doing gurukulavasam with him. 

While the students who are extremely devoted and hardworking, are in awe of his magnificent stature, Shivashakti Sivanesan, the teacher in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan who has organised everything observes the patience and passion with which the master takes his class, be it a geetam to the 5 year olds or an ashtapadi in a master class. As she observes, probably the interaction with this master is the most invaluable lesson for the children much more than actually learning of a kriti itself.  

As the summer camp is drawing to an end, all the children who had taken part perform on 6th and 7th at the Beck Theatre in London. It looks like the students and rasikas of UK are indeed patiently awaiting the maestro’s next visit hopefully next summer. 

Bharatanatyam dancer Deepa Ganesh, student of Adyar Lakshman and Kalanidhi Narayanan, is the artistic director of Upasana.