Dr.T.K. Murthy’s recollections of a Mani Iyer concert

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 ).

Raining Mohanam, by Kapali

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” !

High praise from Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer, by Gopalan Natarajan

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.