Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (transliterated variously as M. Balamuralikrishna, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, M. Balamurali Krishna) (b. Sankaraguptam, Andhra Pradesh, India, July 6, 1930) is a legendary Carnatic (south Indian classical) composer, poet, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, innovator and musical iconoclast. His magnificiently rich and instantly recognizable voice extends, with perfect control, over three octaves.
The "Bala" in his name means "child", and was added when he first gained fame as a child prodigy performing vocal concerts at the age of five. His father Pattabiramayya was a well known musician and could play the flute, violin and veena and his mother Suryakantamma was an excellent veena player. Balamuralikrishna thus began his musical career at a very young age. He soon mastered a variety of instruments, melodic and rhythmic, and is the only musician ever to be honoured with All India Radio's "Top Grade" for seven different performance areas. He is an enterprising instrumentalist who plays violin, viola, khanjira, veena, mridangam and other instruments. He is also the only musician ever to win National Awards in India for classical music, music direction and film playback singing.
Nearly 400 Carnatic musical compositions are credited to him. New ragas, some with only three or four notes, and a new tala (rhythm) system are among his iconoclastic innovations. Such innovations have provoked many criticisms, but his musical inventiveness remains unblunted. Top Hindustani (north Indian classical) musicians have collaborated with him in "jugalbandhis" (duets akin to jamming): including Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Smt. Kishori Amonkar, among others.
He appeared as featured soloist with an award-winning British choir, performing the "Gitanjali Suite" with words from Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize-winning poetry and music by Dr. Joel, the noted UK-based Goan composer. His clear diction in several languages prompted an invitation to record Tagore's entire Rabindra Sangeet compositions in Bengali, preserving them for posterity. He has sung in French, and even ventured into jazz fusion, collaborating with the top Carnatic percussion teacher, Sri T.H. Subash Chandran, in a concert for Malaysian royalty.
Honours have pursued him. He was awarded the prestigious "Padma Vibhushan" title by the Indian government, five doctorates, the pro-chancellorship of Telugu University and numerous top musical honours including Sangeetha Kalanidhi of the Madras Music Academy. The city of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, India, has named a road after him. The record-buying public have supported him enthusiastically, prompting record labels to issue hundreds of his recordings. He has become increasingly interested in music therapy, and now performs only occasionally.
His place among the all-time greats of Carnatic music seems assured.