Composer and Writer
Works of GNB
- THE CREATIVE GENIUS AND HIS COMPOSITIONS
G.N.Balasubramaniam, better known as, G.N.B., was and still
is admired both by his disciples and other contemporary musicians of renown and
their students, for having brought in a revolutionary change and new meaning to
Carnatic Classical music. He introduced refreshingly new forms and patterns into
Carnatic music without in any way deviating from the long established structure
of the Carnatic tradition. Imbibing the best of the Hindustani classical music
into the Carnatic was one of the innovations that G.N.B. made, particularly in
his raga rendering and his own compositions. As his disciples we feel specially
honoured by The Music Academy's invitation to present our understanding of the
Great Maestro, who has been the Master to us and his other disciples, embedded
in our lives as the guiding light and inspiration. His response to our respect
and admiration has always been warm, affectionate and supportive, with a
spontaneous acceptance of our relationship as Grand Disciples in his Musical
Style, which he proudly expressed, in the midst of a gathering of great
musicians, by calling us his "Grand Daughters" and encouraging us to attempt the
most difficult renderings of the Great Trinity as well as his own compositions.
He even composed a chittasvara in Margahindolam and a virutham in
Tamil for us on our request.
Sri G.N.B. was much ahead of his times and has often been
called a genius whose music had the effect of lightning. Even his critics, who
considered his ways of raga alapanas and kriti renderings as
unconventional, had to concede that his imaginative and complex musical forms
elevated the Carnatic style to the peak of its glory and status as a great
Indian musical tradition, making waves not only within India but also in other
parts of the World.
We would specially mention two areas in which his creativity
was brought to the fore. One was the notational improvements that he made to
well known kritis, as for example, Kaddhanuvariki in Thodi raga and
Dharini Telesukonti in Suddhasaveri. This he achieved by
introducing various prastaras and sangatis into them and settling them to more
refined patterns. Dharini Telusukonti became a favorite with the
audiences everywhere, because of the way Sri G.N.B. rendered it . Invariably, a
special request for the kriti was made by rasikas, in most of our concerts too.
He also added chittasvaras to kritis, which did not originally have any. These
chittasvaras, which brought out the essential features of the ragas, were often
breezy, difficult and complex, to which the audiences have been highly
responsive. They made even renowned artists sit up eagerly awaiting every turn
in an avartana. To give examples, one can mention the songs Vararagalaya
in Senjukambodhi and Chalamelara in Margahindolam,
The second was his choice of rare ragas for his own
compositions and also kritis composed in rare ragas by great masters before him
for his concerts. In fact his concerts were remarkable for the choice of songs
in an order, which made the Kutcheri, a unique experience for all. The Kutcheri
style also got transformed by his careful selection of songs and ragas.
While major ragas received attention and treatment due, minor and rare ragas got
interspersed in a fashion, which highlighted or showed up the beauty and
structure of both during the concert. Ragas like Devamanohari and
Sahana were even elevated by him to the position of the piece de resistance
as the Ragan Thanam and Pallavi in his concerts.
Ragas like Sivasakti, Amritabehag, Sarangatarangini, Soma
Kadambari and Chandrahasitam were created by him and have now become
Apoorva ragas in which he composed kritis.
Sri G.N.B. used no code
in his songs and did not
sing his own compositions in his concerts. Yet, his songs have attained
popularity and immortality by their own 'jeevan'. i.e, life and power as songs
in praise of the divine, set to soulful music. His unassailable belief in the
quality of his kritis is revealed by his reply to a query, once made to him, as
to why he did not introduce his own compositions in his concerts to popularise
them. He said that even if he himself did not sing them in public, they would
live if they had "Jeevan" and if others considered them worthy of being sung in
and popularised them. It is remarkable that this has come true.
Sri G.N.B.'s approach to music was based on the philosophy
that the greatest aim of music is to sing the praise of God and that the kritis
of the Great Masters not only show
they sang of their Ishtadevatas,
but also used the kriti for explaining the nuances of musical traditions and the
philosophy of the Vedanta and "Hindu" Dharma. According to him the
development of Carnatic music is closely linked to the evolution and progress of
the kriti as the basic form in performances and that the kriti evolved out of
the Kirtan which is the Namarupa of worship. The kriti enables the artist
to attain the status of a Vidwan by helping him in his exposition of classical
music, while at the same time providing endless scope for his manodharma, i.e.,
in the ways in which he handles the kriti. The kriti has immense capacities of
bringing out the raga lakshana through prastaras, niraval and
svara prayoga. G.N.B. compared the kriti to the north Indian Drupad in its
form, structure and way of singing. The origin of both is traced to the Sama
Veda and both of them combine the kalpita and kalpana sangita.
It is well known that G.N.B.'s music is, as an admirer put
it, "rightly fame for its brighas, its purity of accent, its scope and range and
the possession of that particular and indescribed quality which can hold the
attention of audiences. It is also pointed out that G.N.B. laid emphasis on the
madhyama kala as having the great potential for an artist to improvise and give
expression to his manodharma and hence he focused on it in his concerts. Yet, at
the same time the Chavukka kala and Durita kala received due importance and were
judiciously combined in his songs and performances.
Sri G.N.B was at home both in Sanskrit and Vernacular
languages like Tamil and Telugu in which he composed kritis. He invoked the Devi
in most of his songs and always believed in the divine grace which made his
compositions appealing. Thus the Sahitya in his compositions express this
devotion and divine intervention and are hence full of bhava, rasa and
poetic imagination. True to the south Indian traditions of Bhakti, his choice of
words and structure of songs emphasise devotion and grace as the path to reach
the divine. In the same manner, the phrases he used in his compositions are
basic to the Carnatic musical structure. While he composed kritis in the major
and well known ragas following the great Masters, rare ragas received new
treatment and aesthetically more powerful ways of rendering at his hands. Herein
lies his creativity, as this evolved the typical G.N.B. Bani, full of new
phrases and complex sangatis in rare ragas like Ritigaula, Sriranjani,
Sahana, Senjukambodhi and Suddhabangala to mention only a few. The
creation of new ragas was a part of the process which established his position
as a trendsetter, who experimented and introduced new forms without detracting
from tradition or the conservative norms. It is often said that his Sahitya
and the beginning phrases of the pallavi, anupallavi and charana
resemble closely those of the Trinity and other modern composers. While this
is generally true, it would not be correct to say that this was due to a
conscious use of same words and phrases, but more due to the fact that long
established traditions in composition patterns and the rich heritage of the
Great Composers were internalised by all modern musicians including innovators
raga rendering has always been innovative and the new
modes that he adopted in raga alapanas were also introduced into his
kritis, which became the typical G.N.B. style. This is a feature which had a
great impact on the then younger and aspiring artists, but more importantly on
the Nadaswara Vidwans, who admired him and were inspired by his alapana
methods. They gave life to his alapana style and songs in their instrumental
disciples seek to emulate his patantaram, because his repertoire
is "varied and extensive", thus immortalising his Bani.
G.N.B. composed more than hundred kritis, at least 5 varnams
in Hamsanandi. He introduced the Raga names in his kritis in a
most elegant manner. For example in Bhuvanatraya sammohana kara sastaram, Nee
padame gati nalinakantimati, Ranjani niranjani and Surapujita Veenadhari and
so on. The svarakshara prayoga is an equally interesting feature in his
songs. For example 'Sadapalaya' in Mohanam, 'Samaganalola' in Hindolam etc.,
This was also used by him in the songs of the Great masters, as for example in
the song Samajavara gamana of Tyagaraja, he has used the
swarakshara prayoga in the anupallavi as follows : Sa Ma Ni Ga Ma jasuta.
We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Sri.
Bhuvaneswaran and Sri. Balakrishnan, Sri
son and brother, for giving
access to their collections and other information on Sri. G.N.B.
We would now like to present some of his compositions to
demonstrate his versatility as a Musician.
1. Karimukha varada in Nata
2. Sarat chandra nibhanane in Veenadhari.
3. Samanarahite in Saranga Tarangini.
4. Unnadiye gati yenradainden in Bahudari.
5. Vinutapalini gada in Sivasakti.
6. Tillana in Hamsanandi.
Radha and Jayalakshmi who were awarded the T.T.K. Award this
year submitted their paper as their contribution to the 73rd Conference