The Prince Of Carnatic Music!

 The Man & his music
  As a Composer and Writer
As a composer
His Compositions
His Poems
His Writings
  His Music
  As a Teacher
  On his Grand new Bani


    Composition : Paramakripasagari
Raga :
Composer :

As a Composer and Writer

Works of GNB


Radha Jayalakshmi

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 or Mudra 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 their kutcheries 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 that 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 like G.N.B.

G.N.B.'s 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 music. G.N.B.'s 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 and one Thillana 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 G.N.B.'s 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 proceedings.

As a Composer Compositions Poems Writings

Biography | His Music | His Works | Teacher | Articles | Photo | Audio | Video | Tributes


:: Print this page ::