Mani Iyer tidbits

How T.N. Bala became Mani Iyer’s Disciple

There was this post on YouTube by Sri. Yesh Prabhu who apparently had been learning under Sri. T.N. Bala for many years. In this post, he mentions how T.N. Bala became Mani Iyer’s disciple. I will simply¬† quote his post here.

“I am so happy to see that Sri Madurai Mani Iyer is respected and¬† so revered even now, after all these years of his passing away. (He passed away on June 8, 1968). Sri Mani Iyer was my guru’s guru. My guru, the late Sri T N Bala (composer of the famous kriti Vilaiyada idu nerama? in Shanmukhapriya raga), was a very senior disciple of Sri MMI. My guru told me how he was chosen by Sri MMI to be his shishya: Sri MMI was sitting in his yard one Sunday morning, listening to Madras AIR. Two young boys were singing Shree Muthuswami Dikshitar’s kriti Surya murthe in Sowrashtra raga. Impressed, he called the radio station to find out who the boys were, and was astonished that the boys were the sons of his neighbor across the street. He then approached their father to express his wish to teach the boys. Their father was only too happy, of course, and consented. Occasionally, after my lesson, Sri Bala sang for me, imitating Sri MMI’s voice, a Navagraha kriti or a Navaavarana kiti. It was as if Sri MMI sat in front of me and sang; and it was an amazing experience! I have learnt Carnatic vocal from Sri T N Bala for more than 29 years. YeshPrabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania “

2 replies on “How T.N. Bala became Mani Iyer’s Disciple”

I was reading this web page with great fascination because Sri M M I was my Sangeetha Acharya’s (Sri T N Bala’s) guru. Then suddenly I saw the brief article about the comment I wrote on YouTube regarding how Sri T N Bala became Sri M M I’s shishya. Yes, I have learnt Carnatic music from Sri T N Bala, both in a group class and, a year later, also in private lessons at his residence in Havertown, Pennsylvania. The group lessons lasted about 10 years, until the group broke up because several students lost interest in learning. The group consisted of 11 married women and two men; but the other man dropped out after only four years. But my private lessons continued for nearly 30 years, until just a couple of weeks before he passed away. Infact, just three days before he passed away, he called me to visit him and sing for him five of his favorite kritis, and the next day I drove to his home, more than a hundred miles, one way. Once a week, either on Tuesday or Thursday, I drove to his home, for 29 years. It took me nearly five hours by car, round trip. This I did without missing a single class, driving in bad weather too, even during blizards! He was very fond of telling people who visited him how Yeshwanth drove in a blizard for his music lesson!. After the lesson, his wife, Mrs Susheela Bala fed us a delicious dinner. They would not let me drive home without feeding me. It was during these dinners that he often talked about music, politics, literature, and of course, his guru Sri Madurai Mani Iyer. He had great reverence for his guru, and many times I have witnessed him bursting in tears while he talked about his guru. Both Sri Bala and Mrs Susheela Bala held Sri Mani Iyer in great awe. Like his guru, Sri Bala, too, was obsessed with shruti shudda. During my classes, Mrs Bala would play a perfectly tuned Tambura, and he had near him two shruti boxes, and he insisted that I turn on my shruti box also. So, occasionally when neither of us sang for brief periods, his living room resonated with the nada of three shruti boxes and the deep resonance of a male tambura. I can talk for hours about Sri Bala and the conversations we had, but I do not wish to bore you with my stories. I only wish to say that reading your website gave me great joy and brought back fond memories. Thank you.
Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania

Sir! thank you so much for sharing this with us. Any story related to Madurai Mani Iyer or his disciples is not a bore in the slightest! If that’s the case then I want you to bore me as much as possible because only through people like you will I be able to learn more about Mani Iyer and the people around him, having unfortunately born long after his demise.

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