Shambhu Gupta pays tribute to Balu Raguraman and his wife Subathra for Asian Lite News
I had heard Balu Raghuraman playing violin as an accompanist at the Bhavan during the past three years about a dozen times. He accompanied famous and well established musicians such as Dr M Balamuralikrishna, Dr N Ramani, Shri T V Shankarnarayan etc with ease and had also no difficulty, while playing violin for new and upcoming artists. My wife Punita used to say that Balu Ji has depth in his delivery of music even though there are limited opportunities to show one’s talents as an accompanist.
But recently we had a rare opportunity to hear him playing violin as a soloist at the Bhavan, the home of Indian Arts and Culture. And what a surprise and pleasure it was. More of that later.
First half of the programme was a Veena recital by his wife Subathra Raguraman. She gave an accomplished performance. She played several ragas and compositions from some well known composers. She played ragas Mayamalavagoula ( detailed svara prastar), Sahana, Navarasakannada,Shubha Pantuvarali( detailed alap and svara prastar), Bahudari and Behag. She was accompanied on mridangam by M. Balachandar affectionately known as Bala Ji, and on Morsing by Tanujen, a senior student of Bala Ji.
Second half began with violin recital by Balu Ji himself. He was assisted by one of his senior student Marthangi on violin. He was accompanied on mridangam by Bala Ji and Morsing by Tanujen.
Balu played several ragas flowing effortlessly from one to the next. He played ragas Gowla, Ranjani, Charukesi (detailed alap and svara prastar) , Mohanam (detailed alap and svara prastar) , and Basant Bahar. He displayed virtuosity and depth of emotions in his rendering of the ragas at a very different level. It reminded me when about 25 years back I had the opportunity to listen to Nigel Kennedy ,the famous violin student of Yehudi Menuhin.
Bhavan is so lucky to have him as a resident teacher. However, the story as to how Balu Ji and violin came together is both strange and interesting. Balu’s father had been given a violin by an Australian. Violin was sitting in the house, when suddenly Balu’s father decided to take Balu and the violin to a violin teacher in Banglore at the age of 10. Balu was immediately fascinated by the instrument and its sound. He made quick progress and was soon in demand to play in community events in Banglore and other cities in India.
Evening ended in a standing ovation to the musicians on stage. In 1997 Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan was looking for a violin teacher and Balu at the age of 24 was looking for a job. He applied for the post which was to last three years. Balu liked the Bhavan and he established a good bond of friendship with Balachandar. He is totally committed to the Bhavan and has trained many students who have passed their diplomas and arangetrams. Marthangi had her arangetram in 2014.
I have been a great fan of the mridangam player Bala. But that day he surprised me even more. During the day the middle finger of his right hand had got caught in the door at his home seriously injuring it. He still played ignoring the extreme pain. One should salute such musicians.
Bhavan is lucky to have him as a resident teacher .he has accompanied many famous musicians including Bharat Ratna Ravi Shankar on several occasions. He is one of a kind. Very humble and dedicated to mridangam . He can be a source of inspiration to many to learn the art of accompaniment. Present amongst the audience was Bhavan’s resident teacher Smt Shivshakti Shivnesan- one of the finest Carnatic vocal and Veena Guru.