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Sangeetha Kalanidhi
Shri. G.N.Balasubramanian

(1910-1965)


Contributed by: Ganesan Nagasubramanian
Author: Mr. S. Krishnamoorthy (a music lover of over eighty years. A close associate of most of the celebrated musicians of the past sixty years and his personal close contact with them has inspired him to write this article)

A musical prodigy was born with all the blessings of God in an environment and facility for a musical prodigy to grow up under his father Shri. G. V. Narayanaswamy Iyer, who was a teacher in Hindu High School, a keen student of music with an almost profes sional thoroughness. The other inmates of the house being Shri. Guruswamy Bhagavather, a favored disciple of Shri. Patnam Subramania Iyer, Shri. Madurai Subramania Iyer, a good violinist who had completed his studentship with Karur Shri. Chinnaswamy Iyer (one of the four great violinists of the day) and frequent visits of many musicians who came to see Mr. G. V. Narayanaswamy Iyer, who was then the secretary of Sri. Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha. (This house in Sivaraman street in Triplicane was the meeting place of established vidwans, who were in Madras or came to Madras).

One of the earliest prestigious music sabhas Sri. Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha had the distinction of being run by some of the real music lovers, scholars, pandits, vidwans, patrons and rising artists. Monthly concerts were arranged in the 1st floor of a b uilding, where Shri. G. N. Balasubramanian had every opportunity of hearing good music.

The gift of voice is an asset to any musician and should be grateful for, but then there is a practical problem involved, which a moment's calm analysis will show. In such a voice running at so fast a speed the effects of Brighas, twists and turns, come in quick succession that most of the audience, the lay audiences fail to appreciate and feel restless. Those with a musical ear, sure knows some of the nuances but this is loss to the lay audience, of course, and also a loss to the musician that his gre at achievements pass unnoticed. This was what I had to impress on Mani (G. N. Balasubramanian) in those days. The cascade of notes were so overwhelming that our intimate friends failed to grasp the subtleties as confessed by them. In this attempt, anot her close friend and well-wisher was a trained mridangam expert Sri. K. Rajamani, B. A. B. L. (one year my junior in Presidency College, Madras) trained by Sri. Krishna Pillai of Pudukkottai, another disciple of Manmudia Pillai. The residence at No. 73, Big Street, Triplicane, Madras was where we three met. Mani got to practice to the accompaniment of mridangam. This helped him a lot and taught him many useful bits about mridangam technique which he could make use of in his concert. Some of the earlier appearances of Mani were with Rajamani on mridangam. Very many of the earlier performances of the few early years were at some friends' house parties, college functions etc.

A performance was arranged by one of his admirers a well-wisher in Theosophical Society, Adyar under the world famous Banyan Tree (which has been there for centuries and ever green) Srimathi Rukmani Devi Arundale was the patroness of the occasion. Her a ppreciation and applause were noticed by the press representatives present on the occasion and they gave a glowing report of the concert in the next day dailies and that meant Mr. G. N. Balasubramanian ( still my Mani) had arrived and the road to name, fa me and fortune were open to him. Tributes paid to G. N. B. by the press did start the period when he received invitation from many of the music sabhas in Madras and some important mofussil towns where they had established Music Sabhas. Nothing succeeds like success and within a few years, he was among the most sought after male vocal musicians. His style of Raga elaboration, rendering of standard kritis in the classic traditions and apt swaraprasthana endeared him to the average music hall audience as well as to the knowledgeable musically trained critical audience of this time. He had restricted the speed, ideally suited to his voice at the same time easily followed by the audience. He had gained by attending the vocal recitals of the all time great Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar the Kalpana Sangeetham of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and achieved a synthesis of the two models, most attractive and technically perfect. No wonder, he was at the top of the profession and he had gathered around him a larg e number of admirers, and ardent audience. His fan mail grew fast.

This was not an unalloyed good. The inevitable frequency of kutcheries, the frequent travel by air, and surface route, the irregular hours of food and rest began to tell on his health. When remonstrated with his undertaking 18 engagements a month often in places distant from each other, he had only one thing to say "I must meet my needs. They are great - my family is big, frequent marriages do and cost quite a bit and I cannot spoon pick and choose and not undertake so many engagements". This he agai n said when he came to Bombay for a concert and stayed in Wadala with his kinsman. The next evening he called on me at my house in Chembur, stayed for a few hours - would not eat - could not eat - just a mouthful of payasam and left early to take rest. This incident depressed me and all members of my family to see him in poor health. He had taught and groomed during his active years number of his disciples to reach the top grade among professional musicians of the day - Radha Jayalakshmi, M. L. Vasant hakumari, Trichur V. Ramachandran, S. Kalyanaraman - to name a few - and they in their turn had trained musicians fast approaching the top. G. N. B. had the honor and pleasure of seeing his second generation shisyas numbering among the top of the profess ion. He had won all the top honors and distinctions in the field of music. He was made the state vidwan of Travancore, a Sangeetha Kalanidhi of Madras Music Academy etc. He developed and perfected a new style of vocal music rich-classical and very effe ctive, appealing to the people as well as the pandits

Mani was persuaded by his friends and admirers to act in a film called "Bhama Vijayam". This film was unique in the sense that Mani and M. R. Krishnamoorthy (brother of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer) together gave some excellent music in perfect unison. Later he acted with the celebrated musician M. S. Subbalakshmi in Sakunthala as Dushyantha. This film gave occasion and medium for the two top class musicians of the male and female groups to act and sing together - a feast of reason and flow of soul.

"The quality of such music is not strained but blesseth the person/persons who sing and those who hear as well". Kritis GNB Introduced into Public Concerts which later gained currency and Many Suggestions Key: X - introduced; XX - sung often

1.                              - Vardhani		X
2. Manasiloni Marmamulu         - Hindolam		X
3. Makelara                     - Ravichandrika      XX
4. Me Valla Gunadosha		- Kapi               XX
5. Muddhumomu                   - Suryakanthi        XX
6. Yagnathulu                   - Jayamanohari       X
7.                              - Hinditavasantham	X
8. Varanarayana                 - Vijasri	        X
9. Vasudevayani                 - Kalyani	        X
10. Sobhulu                     - Jaganmohini	XX
11. Sarasamudena		- Kapi Narayani	XX
12. Sundari Ni                  - Kalyani		XX
13. Yete Janmamu		- Varali		X
14. Yenthundi Vedali		- Darbar		XX
15. Kalalaerchina		- Deepika		X
16. Koniyade                    - Kokiladwani	XX
17. Jasinethalla		- Thodi		XX
18. Dasukovalena		- Thodi		XX
19. Natimata                    - Devakriya	XX
20. Nadhaloludai		- Kalyanavasantham	XX
21. Nidhichala Sukama		- Kalyani	XX
22. Pakkala Nilabadi		- Karaharapriya	XX
23. Paramathmudu		- Vagadhiswari	XX
24. Brova Barama		- Bahudari	XX
25. Brochevarara		- Sriranjani	XX
26. Mathilonayu                                       X


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