TRIBUTES AND ANECDOTES
I congratulate you and through you all the admirers and patrons of GNB Please
convey to him my respectful regards and prayers for a happy, prosperous career.
I know Sri GNB is a musician with an emancipated mind and his services to the
cause of Carnatic Music are incalculable. He has the largest following among
vocalists both men and women. He has popularised Carnatic Music keeping to the
high ideals. I wish the
function a fitting success. "
- PROF. DWARAM VENKATASWAMY NAIDU'S letter on the occasion of Felicitations to
GNB in March 1964.
The interval between the arrival of G. N. Balasubramaniam in Carnatic music and
his elevation as the presiding officer of the Swati Tirunal Academy is
interesting and eventful. There was ' Mani ' the youthful musician exuding a
verve and freshness in his singing and then came the popular GNB, the brilliant
exponent whose dynamism and the profusion of idea on music are fondly cherished.
Next, We see the Sangeetha Kalanidhi, the Scholar and Composer (Vaggeyakara) and
now the Acharya presiding over an institution named after one of the greatest composers
of Karnatak Music. It is a logical climax to a brilliant career in
which art certainly developed a new look through his efforts which in another
way were largely instrumental in molding the ideals and aspirati0n of a whole
generation in Karnatak Music.
- From Sri B.V.K.SASTRI, article in the Commemoration Souvenir.
With foundations firm and true GNB has been able with confidence to allow free
play to his imaginative and intuitive faculties, to weave daring patterns with
speed and certainty and to soar into regions that thrill his hearers while
preserving all along immaculate and impeccable control over the rigid
essentials of sound science. The result is that the listener thoroughly enjoys
the fine fare provided. A pleasing feature is that G.N.B. is able to avoid undue
contortion. Indeed his mannerisms are few ; the few are pleasant to watch and
characteristic of his personality. While hearing him one gets the feeling that
the singer enjoys singing as much the hearer enjoys hearing his music. Each raga
is delineated faultlessly with consummate skill and rare charm; his timing when
doing the song or neraval or swaraparasthara is infallible .
So much for GNB the musician. Now for GNB the man. I have known him well for
many years. He is singularly free from jealousies that are not uncommon in any
section of society including the music world. I have not yet heard him say any
disparaging word against any other fellow artist-vocal or instrumental. It has
always been my regret that he has not sung even one of the many songs he had
composed at anyone of the several concerts I have attended, he prefers to leave
it to his disciples or other vocalists to do so. This is an indication of his
inherent modesty despite the dashing exterior. His compositions bear ample
testimony to his creative talent
clarity of expression,
the emphasis on the salient features of the raga and the ' natural ' timing
makes them exceedingly pleasant to hear.
- SRI V.N.RAJAN, I.C.S., in his article entitled GNB -A master exponent of pure
Carnatic Music Contributed to the Commemoration Souvenir.
GNB is an affectionate friend and is loyal to his friends which is a rare virtue
among musicians which is proof of his culture. Even when he begins a concert
with handicaps the presence of his friends inspire him and he reaches
unimaginable heights. His solicitude for the young artistes is
amply manifested by his encouraging them to accompany him and many a good
accompanists of this day owe not a little to him for the abundant
opportunities he has provided them. He has treated them with brotherly affection
and the younger accompanists with paternal solicitude. His erudition and
scholarship in more than one language and his total surrender to his favorite Deity " Raja Rajeswari " have enabled him to compose many kritis in rare ragas
which have become so popular that they are sung in concerts and in every
musically minded family which is sure to have a GNB fan.
- SRI K. PARTHASARATHY, Advocate, Alleppey in his article entitled " G.N.B. - An
Outstanding Star in the firmament of Carnatic Music..
I have touched upon GNB's genius, his originality, his equipoise, his faith in
God and his love for his disciples and above all, his basic humility
and have quoted, Dwaram, T. N. Raja- ratnam Pillai and Muthiah Bagavathar, What
more can one say about him.
It is a pity he passed away in Trivandrum a few years before he could
celebrate his 61st birthday. He can never be forgotten by the generation which
had the pleasure and privilege of hearing his incomparably supreme music
rendered in a voice with a manodharma for which there were only two
equals-Madurai Pushpavanam and S. G. Kittappa, both of whom died at even
younger ages than GNB Whom the Gods love die young.
- PROF. T. V. RAMANUJAM in his article in Bhavan Journal entitled- G.N.B.
- the phenomenon of Carnatic Music.
G.N.B. maintained the best relationship with the other artists. In concerts, he
balanced that the success of performance was due to the teamwork of all the
participants. I may be permitted to illustrate this by a humorous remark which
he made while appreciating a particular combination of food as my guest
in Tirunelveli. He said " This is like singing with Rajamanickam Pillai and
Palghat Mani Iyer accompanying "............
GNB will live for ever in the hearts of friends like me and his music
will remain for ever in the minds of those who were blessed enough to
listen to it. Whom the Gods love die young and I am sure GNB whom Ambal loved as
Her dear child is resting 0n her laps in peace. May GNB be a source of
inspiration to the younger generations of music.
- HON'BLE MR.K.S.VENKATARAMAN, LC.S., in his article entitled ' G.N.B. '
published in the Journal of Music Academy, 1965.
GNB had definite ideas about various aspects of music. He was the embodiment of
humility. He never thought high of his music even though he had innumerable
rasikas who literally danced in exotic delight on hearing his music. He used to
say that an artist could never reach his cherished goal. As one approaches the
goal, it will fade away into a distance. Hence no artist can
rest content with his achievements. If he does so, there can be no further
His swara singing was of special appeal to me. He was responsible for
creating a vast sishya-parampara. I want to pay my respect to his sacred memory.
I had the privilege of listening to a concert of GNB more than 45 years ago
while he performed at Post Office Street, George Town during Ganesh Festival.
Even after several decades that concert remains ever green in my memory. His
voice was already familiar to me through some of his gramophone records. His
duet with Maharajapuram Krishnamurthy in a film was quite popular those days.
But when I heard him in person, I was simply bewildered by his voice, style and
power. He was accompanied that day by Sri T.K.Jayarama Iyer on the violin, and
by Palghat Ramachandran on the mridangam. In the later part of the concert, GNB
sang ' Sahana ' alapana and Sri T.K.Jayarama Iyer simply informed the audience "
I will not play this on violin-what is there left for me ?
Another bond that binds me with GNB was that both of us sat at the feet of Tiger
Varadachariar and Madurai Subramania Iyer. I precisely remember the latter's
appreciation of GNB's creativity in swaraprasthara. GNB was once rendering the
swaraprasthara for the charanam of ' Raghuvamsa sudha ' in Kathanakuthukalam.
His ending the prasthara with " Ri Ma Dha Ni Ga " was something like a flash.
- PROF. S. RAMANATHAN, Musician and Musicologist
GNB was capable of improving any swara combination at will. Even in his
astonishingly fast birkas the vakra sancharas used to be clear and vivid. He had
the capacity to elaborate apoorva ragas like Chenchukamboji, Kiranavali,
His thukkadas "Radha Sametha ", "Nalla Sakunam ", " Dikku Theriyatha Kattil ",
etc., are still ringing in my ears. GNB was responsible for increasing. the rate
for musicians. He used to encourage young vidwans and instill confidence in them.
I had the privilege of accompanying him in many a concert.
V. SETHURAMIAH, Violinist.
GNB was nothing if not versatile. He would in the course of a conversation talk
with equal, expertise and felicity on Astrology, Politics, Religion, Medicine
and other subjects.
His unstinting praise of youngsters showing promise in music was so liberal that
one of my uncles living in Baroda heard. him speaking in favorable terms about
me to his admirers. My uncle never believed I could sing well until he heard the
great GNB himself talking highly about me. No wonder GNB's. sishya-parampara is
so vast and so good.
SMT. GAYATRI CHANDRASEKAR of Bangalore.
During the Thyaga Brahma Aradhana in a particular year, GNB's performance was to
be relayed as National Programme on the All-India Radio. That evening
Ariyakkudi, Alathur Brothers, GNB and a few other vidwans were having an
interesting discussion. A rasika came in just then and asked " who is National
today " ( He was enquiring as to who would be singing for AIR.'s National
Programme ). GNB with a broad smile-pointed to Ariyakudi and said
" He is the only National-All of us are strictly provincial " Everyone enjoyed
the witty yet truthful reply.
SRI SARANGAPANI of Kumbakonam.
In a performance he gave for Gana Mandir, Thambu Chetty Street, Madras, GNB sang
with much repose eschewing his rapid fine birkas and bringing out the nuances
more with Gamakas. It was a different GNB altogether and I wondered if there
were anything he could not possibly achieve in the realm of music. The late
T.L.Venkatarama Iyer was among the audience and in commending GNB's performance
that day he made a special reference to " Brovavamma " rendered by him in Manji,
Sri Venkatarama Iyer said he had heard senior vidwans sing that particular kriti
in a lack-luster manner more or less like Bhairavi but " this young man has
brought out the. distinctive charm of Manji both in the raga alapana and in the
kriti in a clear and
K.S.MUTHURAMAN in Sruti May 1984 Issue.
With his fast tempo singing GNB indeed brought a new dimension to Carnatic Music
releasing it from the slow tempo school, though I am not totally averse to the
latter. GNB had a gifted voice which he exploited most aesthetically and
rationally too. Perhaps next to the late lamented S.G.Kittappa, GNB alone sang
so masculinely at the top register with ease and grace. On top of it all, GNB's
brika had a musicality and precision about it.
- SRI V. R. RAMABADRAN, in Sruti July 1984 issue.
has been my good fortune to have accompanied GN Sir in countless performances
all over the country. Many of these were memorable. I shall refer here to one
such star performance which has remained green in my memory for more resaons
than one. .The occasion was a marriage celebration at Kallidaikurichi. The
pandal was packed to capacity with
men and women
who were ardent admirers of TNR, Semmangudi and GN Sir himself. The performance started at about 9-30 p.m. as is usual in that village. GN Sir was
in fine fettle. From the very start, the performance settled to a high level of
excellence. After spiritedly singing a few kritis and ragas as was his wont,
Kalyani was taken up for RTP. It had a two hour duration. GN sir exhaustively
covered the three octaves in all three time scales. Sancharas in mandhara sthayi
swaras in vilamba kalam had more than their usual share. All his inventive
faculties were in full play in the rendering of alapana and there were subtle
laya variations in his pallavi singing. Even who was familiar with GN Sir's
Kalyani, some rare prastharas with twists, turns and glides came as a
revelation. S.V.S. Narayanan (son of S. V. Subbiah Bhagavathar of Drama fame)
played on the mridangam. Both of us played at our best and keyed up the concert
to a high level of excellence. GN Sir acknowledged and appreciated our
contributions. Among senior vocalists, GN Sir always believed in giving ample
opportunities to the accompanists to prove their mettle and when they rose to
the occasion he was never niggardly in his praise. He always got the best out of
Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr. T. N. KRISHNAN.