After Gandhiji’s death, Mani Iyer asked his good friend ‘Chitti’ to compose a song on the Mahatma. Chitti obliged and composed the following song, which was often sung by Mani Iyer in the raga Shanmugapriya. Madurai Mani Iyer was an ardent follower of the Mahatma and was called “Gandhi” by his close associates.
Presenting here Mani Iyer’s concert review by a popular critic “Neelam” (Neelamegam). You can see the published date as 15-4-1945 and the newspaper as “Swadesamithran”. Mani Iyer was severely ill during 1944, at the young age of 32 and could not perform in concerts for nearly a year. This review reflects it.
Madurai Mani Iyer’s 105th Birthday celebration was held at P.S. High School, Mylapore on 23/10/2016 and here is a brief report on the event.
The Programme started at around 3.45 pm with singer Sri. Suryaprakash kicking things off with a beautiful prayer. Sri. Kuppuswamy then introduced the guests of honor and welcomed them onto the dais. Cleveland sri. V.V. Sundaram was asked to honor the chief Guest for the event, Sangeetha Kalinidhi Dr.T.K. Murthy and speak a few words on him. Sri. Sundaram spoke that words like “Genius” and “living legend” are being too casually thrown around these days but Dr.T.K. Murthy really is a living legend, and fondly recalled his 40 year association with the veteran Mridangam artiste. One rasika was quick to point out that no one can match Dr.T.K.Murthy’s Mridangam skills while playing for Pancharatna Kritis. Mridangam Vidwan Sri. K.S. Kalidas was the next speaker, and he said that though people usually only speak about the “sowkhyam” aspect of Mani Iyer’s music, Mani Iyer has also done a lot on the “laya” side of the music. He also stated that though accompanists were initially wary of accompanying Mani Iyer since he sang in a simple sarvalaghu style, devoid of any rhythmic complexities, They later understood the true greatness of his music and clamored to accompany him.
Dr.T.K. Murthy spoke next and said he considered it a great privilege to speak about Mani Iyer, and his music was the embodiment of su-swaram (pure sounds). He also touched upon how great Mani Iyer was as a person, that he would never speak ill of any artiste, took care of his accompanists in the best way possible, and would never let others pay for anything while traveling with him for a concert. The whole speech can be watched here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC_bDT9y9iQ
Anchors for the day Sri. Lalitha Ram and V.Vishnu took over and played some select clips of Mani Iyer while explaining the greatness of the music contained within each clip. Sri. Lalitha Ram started off by playing the famous 1967 recording of Ma Janaki and followed it up with the Abhogi rendition Manasunilpa. he said that this particular rendition was the reason he became a Mani Iyer fan. Meru Samana, Madhar Pirai in Arabhi, Venkatachalapthe in Karnataka Kapi, Nithya Roopa in Darbar , Thodi RTP, English note formed the rest of the clippings played. Lalitha Ram explained that these songs were selected to show rare/unusual renderings of Mani Iyer. The event concluded with Mani Iyer’s Mangalam.
The event was a grand success with around 100 Rasikas and Madurai Mani Iyer fans attending the event.
The concert venue was Palani temple. Sri. Chowdiah was the violinist whereas Dr.T.K. Murthy was the with the Mridangam. Mani Iyer started to sing Intha Paramugam in Raga Purvikalyani. At one point in the song when Mani Iyer started to sing in the higher octave, Sri.Chowdiah stopped accompanying and simply put down the violin. When Mani Iyer asked the veteran violinist why he was not playing, Chowdiah’s reply was “Naan Vaasichu Kedukka Vendaame nu thaan” ( Translation: I do not want to spoil it by playing my violin). According to Dr. T.K. Murthy, The Shadjamam sang by Mani Iyer that day continues to reverberate in his mind to this day.
Also According to Dr.T.K. Murthy, Mani Iyer was the only artiste in his time to sing the Raga Prathapavarali (Song: Vinanasokoni ).
When I was young, I used to hear the music renderings of Shri Madurai Mani Iyer along with my father, who is ardent fan of him in my village. I was so impressed upon the unique style of his music despite my ignorance in music. I am now relishing on seeing the articles, rare photographs, repository of music, etc. in the website. Thank you each and every one for the efforts in bringing the website very successful. This site will be a great treasure and guide for the buds to be blossomed in the world of music in the years to come. This Project could be possible only because of divine impetus of the genius in music, Shri Madurai Mani Iyer.
It was in the year 1961 or so. The occasion was MMI kutcheri at the Ramanavami festival at Seshadripuram , Bangalore. MMI was accompanied by Lalgudi and Palani Subramania Pillai. After about 90 mts well in to the concert , MMI was midway in the alapana for Mohanam when there was a sudden outburst of summer thunderstorm rain with strong gusty winds resulting in abrupt failure of electricity. There was pitch darkness in the concert pandal and the huge crowd waited patiently with pin drop silence . Rainwater started seeping under the stage where the artists were performing. Silently the organizers and volunteers shifted the whole stage in the darkness to a farther away location free from the rain water seepage. Fortunately the whole carpet area where the listeners were seated was free from the water leakage. Miraculously, the rain and storm subsided completely after 20 mts and power also was restored immediately to the relief of one and all and the audience could scarcely believe how the entire stage was shifted to another remote area in the pandal in the darkness. MMI resumed the finishing touches of the alapana of Mohanam and later on sang a sublime ‘Nanupalimpa’ in his inimitable style. MMI was in fine mettle and when the memorable concert was about to end late in the night the president of the Ramaseva Samithi in his address said ” What we heard today is not normal Sangeetham but Devamrutha Sangeetham” !
I learnt Carnatic music under Srivanchiyam Ramachandra Iyer in the late 80s and he once narrated me a story that he witnessed while with his guru,the legendary Mudikondan Venkatrama Iyer. This was sometime in the 40s. MMI was slated for a concert in a temple town. Sri Venkatrama Iyer had completed his concert in the evening and was waiting to hear MMI whose slot was at the usual 8pm. As MMI sat down on the stage and was getting ready to start he noticed Mudikondan in the front row and immediately bowed his head and said to him “Periava (i.e. Mudikondan) is sitting in the audience, pl forgive if I make any mistake in my concert”. Pat came Mudikondan’s reply – “nee ovvaru swarathilayum samadhi adayaravan – eppadi pezhagu vara mudiyum – nee bhesha padu Mani” meaning ” you attain bliss in every swara – how can you ever make a mistake – you rock on”. So true were these words about Mani Iyer’s inimitable style and his shruthishuddam – which remains unparalleled to date.