Fast gaining worldwide critical acclaim, the talented musician is known for his ability to deliver with phrasal clarity while delving deep into the recesses and quiet spaces between microtones or notes. Hearing him play is like attending a crash course in interpreting raga music – at times pensive and intense, and at times shining with the levity of youth.
The sum of his unconventional path through life includes his father’s decision to homeschool him for several years because as he wanted his son to have a more richly varied life filled with travel, exposure and artistic immersion – and many of the joys (as well as unique challenges) that come with the territory as a a child prodigy in Indian classical music. Yet what Balachandhran plays is more than the sum of one life journey alone. It is a sort of primal – Jungian collective unconscious, if you will – call back to time immemorial that stirs something deep within the soul.
Balachandhran’s veena is deliberate and contemplative, taking listeners on a meditative journey. Opening with Ragam Thanam Pallavi in Raga Kapi, he puts his full gamut of dexterous skill on display, improvising and vocalising in a way that is both free and pure, but also demonstrative of conscious musical restraint and hard-won mastery. That he chooses the Ragam Thanam Pallavi structure to draw his audience in is telling, as it allows him to use the framework to build in a textured exploration of elaborate complexity, rhythmic variety and spirited renditions.
The exploration of the raag invokes a sense of serenity amid the audience, and the refrains he lays sparkle like shimmering breadcrumbs in the air, poised to be picked up again later when they coalesce in the culmination of the raag. His co-musician, Patri Satish Kumar, is like a supportive best friend. Though many years apart in age, both exude a comfort and camaraderie together on stage – chemistry nurtured through their association, especially while traveling and living together for the festival.