Balachander stormed into the prim Madras music scene with a panache and eccentricity that no contemporary of his could match.
The veena maestro began his music career at a time when stalwart vocalists ruled the roost and instrumentalists played second fiddle to them. But being an independent minded and self-taught artiste, Balachander carved a unique niche for himself as a veena soloist. He boldly changed the grammar of instrument music, contemporized the veena and created a legacy known as the Balachander bani, or style.
But Balachander’s iconoclastic and brash ways earned him the ire of the Carnatic music fraternity. He was quick to pick quarrels with established fellow musicians in his lifelong quest for perfection and truth.
So was Balachander a beloved genius or a much-maligned maverick? Voice of the Veena attempts to recreate the towering personality that he was – a lot of this researched from his elaborate personal diaries.
While his death in 1990 created a void in the Carnatic realm, the issues he fought for remain relevant till today, and his memory lives on in the minds of music connoisseurs. As the maestro himself would have smugly said: ‘Veena is Balachander, Balachander is veena.’
The book comes with a CD
Vikram Sampath is the author of two acclaimed books, Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of The Wodeyars and My Name is Gauhar Jaan: The Life and Times of a Musician. He was awarded the prestigious visiting fellowship at the early gramophone recordings of Indian music.
He is also a trained Carnatic vocalist and writes regularly for newspapers and magazines. He currently works in a leading software company in Bangalore.