Flute maestro N. Ramani had just returned after having represented India at the Parliament of World Religions at Australia. He was able to rewind, jet lag notwithstanding.
“It was during the 1950s. I was a youngster then and had just started appreciating good music. Mali sir took me to a chamber concert on Mada Veedhi. As the concert was in progress, Mali sat among the audience and paid his respects to this singer, who was none other than Ariyakkudi. And it suddenly struck me that this was the great Ariyakkudi himself! What's more, one jambavan was saluting another! Later, Mali told me that he was pleased with the bani of Ariyakkudi and explained it to me.
Another chamber concert he took me to was that of M.D. Ramanathan, whom he regarded as a musician of great depth. Again in the 1950s, S.V.S. Narayanan had organised a kutcheri of mine in Thiruvallikeni. As I was playing the pallavi, I noticed Mali walking in. He appreciated my performance whole-heartedly. What was interesting was that he approached the organisers and wanted to be given a chance to play in that series!
I got married in the year 1956. Also, my first performance happened at the Music Academy between 3 and 4.30 p.m. There was a good crowd, and Mali and mridangam legend Palani Subramania Pillai had to listen to the concert from outside! I had learnt the pallavi from my guru. I now understand its complexities and compare it with today's pallavis. In fact, two ‘youngsters' Tiruchi Sankaran and V. V. Subramaniam accompanied me that day.
I must have played many concerts using the five-kattai flute with Mali at The Music Academy, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Vani Mahal and Muthamizh Peravai. The last was arranged by our present CM. These incidents are still fresh in my memory. Elsewhere in India, at a concert of Mali's, he had two mridangams but without the violin. Similarly, I once accompanied him with the bass flute and became the violinist. Mali sir seemed to like that combination. It was magical to play with him.”
(A column where artists recall performances/impressions that remain in their memory)