M.V. Ramakrishnan

Celebrating Madurai Mani

Madurai Mani  

"Elderly lovers of Carnatic music sometimes find it difficult to believe that many decades have passed since the good old days when the scene had been dominated by venerable vocalists such as Ariyakkudi, Chembai, Semmangudi, GNB and Madurai Mani. This is so because the old maestros' styles of singing still continue to influence many of today's popular vocalists indirectly through a succession of teachers and disciples. Among

those past masters, Madurai Mani alone is still represented by a direct disciple, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, one of the doyens of Carnatic music today."

I couldn't help recalling the above thought I had expressed a few years ago in this column (' >His master's voice and his own'), as I sat listening to a moving speech by TVS at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha last week, in an event commemorating the birth centenary of Madurai Mani Iyer. Gracing the occasion with their presence were several legendary Carnatic musicians -- violinists T.N. Krishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman and mridangam maestros T.K. Murthy, Umayalpuram Sivaraman and Vellore Ramabadhran -- who had all greatly enriched Madurai Mani Iyer's music as his constant accomapnists , and also enabled TVS to emerge as his worthy successor.

Nostalgic mood

An intensely nostalgic mood pervaded the whole auditorium, as T.N. Krishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman and T.K. Murthy recalled their close association with the venerable vidwan, and hundreds of senior citizens in the audience fondly and silently remembered their own faithful attendance in his heart-warming performances more than 50 or 60 years ago.

It was an unusual but perhaps entirely natural thing for TVS to find himself in the twin roles of host as well as guest in this context, because the organisers of the function had closely associated him in visualising an year-long celebration till October 2012, during which more than a dozen sabhas in Chennai will be organising appropriate events. TVS attributed his

success as a vocalist not only to the benevolence of his Guru but also to the great goodwill and encouragement of his masterful accompanists who were all present in that very forum.

Collective effort

Other eloquent speakers were Mr. N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner who presided over the function, and Mr. R. Krishnaswami, Secretary, Narada Gana Sabha. Mssrs. Y. Prabhu and R. Sundar (Secretaries of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and Hamsadhwani respective;y), and Mr. Jayaramakrishnan (Vice-Pressident, TCS) are the convenors of the centenary celebrations.

It is noteworthy that most of the oldest Sabhas in Chennai, that had all regularly organised Madurai Mani Iyer's music and enabled him to grow in stature, are associated with this whole project. These are (in order of their age, ranging from 100+ to 50+ years): Sri Parthasarathi Swami Sabha, Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Indian Fine Arts Society, Thyaga Brahma Sabha, Mylapore Fine Arts Club, Narada Gana Sabha, and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.

Younger institutions which are associated are: Asthika Samajam (Tiruvanmiyur), Bharat Kalachar, Bharatiya Sangeetha Vaibhavam, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Brahma Gana Sabha, Hamsadhwani, Kartik Fine Arts, Mudhra, Nadopasana, and Raga Tarangini.

The proceedings were followed by a delightful one-hour violin recital by T.N. Krishnan and his daughter Viji, accompanied by T.K. Murthy and Sivasubramaniam on the mridangam and K.V. Gopalakrishnan on the ganjira. The veteran violinist rendered some of the popular songs in Madurai Mani Iyer's repertoire (including 'Kaa Vaa Vaa', 'Thaaye Yasodha', 'English Note,' and 'Yeppo Varuvaro?') in a gentle style reminiscent of the Mahavidwan. The tone of Viji's violin sounded almost like that of her father, and together they enhanced the serene mood of the moment.

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