‘The Many Lives of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna’: Book tells life story of Carnatic music genius

A new book gives readers an in-depth account of the many lives lived by Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna — the internationally renowned Carnatic musician from the illustrious musical lineage of composer Saint Tyagaraja.

“The Many Lives of Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna”, written by award-winning author Veejay Sai, is published by Penguin Random House India (PRHI). It will be released on Monday.

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Having made a stage debut at the age of seven, Balamuralikrishna was hailed as a child prodigy. From then until the time he passed away, at the age of 86 in 2016, he continued to be in the spotlight, not just for his extraordinary talent and versatility as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, but as a composer, playback singer and even , briefly, as a character actor.

“Here is a story of this musical genius. I say ‘a’ story and not ‘the’ story because lives like his can never be covered in one book. There is so much more to the man, his genius and his life. A man who could connect with anyone with a song. A man who could make you feel the highly complicated genre of music he was singing was easy,” he writes Sai in the book.

“Whoever encountered him had a memorable story to share. That was the effect I left on them. If it wasn’t a personal meeting, it was his music that lingered on like an aftertaste,” he added.

Balamuralikrishna, who has the rare distinction of composing tunes with 72 Melakarta ‘ragas’, performed in over 25,000 concerts around the world. He has also invented ‘talas’ (a traditional rhythmic pattern in classical Indian music) such as ‘Trimukhi’, ‘Panchamukhi’, ‘Saptamukhi’ and ‘Navamukhi’, among others.

Sai’s in-depth research into the late artist’s life and work has led him deep into unseen archival material and across the Carnatic musical landscape.

Fortified by interviews with his family members, disciples and peers, the book, according to the publishers, is a “definitive biography of the musical geniuswhich is not only a revealing account of the personal traits and facets of an unparalleled genius, but also a portrait of India’s classical music world” — a place as much of beauty as of untrammeled egos.

Sai’s previous book “Drama Queens: Women Who Created History on Stage” was released in 2017.

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