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Updated: May 24, 2012 21:13 IST

Comfort of the known

Venkatesan Srikanth
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SAK Durga. Photo: V. Ganesan.
The Hindu SAK Durga. Photo: V. Ganesan.

If some Delhi music lovers enjoyed analysing the greatness of Madurai Mani Iyer, others went back to the devotional roots of classical music.

Mention these songs to any ardent Carnatic music lover — “Kaa Vaa Vaa” (Varali), “Thaaye Yasodha” (Todi), “Yeppo Varuvaro” (Jonpuri), “Vellai Thamarai” (Bhimplas), “Karpagame” (Madhyamavati) and the “English Note” — and the name that would instantly come to mind is the legendary late Madurai Mani Iyer. Madurai Mani Iyer popularised these songs and his listeners would repeatedly request him to sing most of them in all his concerts. Mani Iyer was born on October 25 1912 and his centenary is being marked by events spread over a year in different parts of the country.

In the Capital, the India International Centre organised a programme in a most befitting manner. Chennai-based Dr. S.A.K. Durga, herself a disciple of Mani Iyer and Director, Center for Ethnomusicology & Center for Voxology, Chennai, presented a lecture-demonstration on the celebrated vocalist's music.

Durga's presentation was not only enlightening and engaging, but also redolent with nostalgia when she played bits of his recordings in between. When she was making a point on Mani Iyer's style of singing the raga, neraval or the kalpana swaras she would play the corresponding recordings of Mani Iyer singing these segments. The audience's enjoyment of these bits was palpable, as if they wished the recordings didn't have to stop. Such was the effect of Madurai Mani's music.

Durga explained what made his art great. . She pointed out that Mani Iyer would sing with perfect sruti alignment and deliver bhava-laden phrases in rakti ragas. He would sing the sangatis in the songs only once (singing it twice is the usual practice) and give prominent place to Tamil compositions in his concerts. His kalpana swaras were fabulous and he would never resort to pre-set teermanams as a finale to kalpana swaras. The kala pramanam (ability to maintain the tempo of the song) was his forte. On the whole, a well conceived event for which the India International Centre deserves credit.

Elsewhere in the Capital, Shree Vishnu Sahasranama Namasankirtana Mandali, Delhi, organised their 16th Lakshmi Narashima Jayanthi Utsavam in association with the Vasundhara Enclave Sarveswara Samaj. The two-day festival was held at the latter's temple premises. The highlights of this event were the Sita Kalyanam in bhajana paddhati, led by the Delhi-based Shankara Subramania Avadhani, and Taranga Gaanam from Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini composed by Narayana Teertha in bhajan sampradayam by the Hyderabad-based K. Sampath Kumar. “Aalolaye Balakrishnam” in raga Hamsanadam, “Bala Gopalakrishna” in raga Mohanam, “Govardhana Giridhara” in Hindolam, “Puraya mama kamam” in Bilahari and “Brindavanamaduna” in Brindavana Saranga were some of the songs that Sampath presented, prefixing them with shlokas in the form of viruttams.

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