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Ganakaladhara Madurai Mani Iyer
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Giving below a Narration of Shri Thiruvengadu Jayaraman, a senior disciple of Madurai Mani Iyer about a Memorable Concert of his master held in Hyderabad during the early fifties.

It was a sabha concert held at Hyderabad, where my master Shri Madurai Mani Iyer performed with the accompaniment  of  Shri Mysore Chowdiah on the Violin and Shri Palghat Mani Iyer on the Mridangam.

In that concert, Shri Madurai Mani Iyer exhibited an unusual talent which was quite contrasting to his own style.  The highlight of the concert was a Pallavi in Kambhoji. Shri Mani Iyer sang an elaborate KAMBHOJI alapana in his inimitable style. Shri Chowdiahs Violin solo version of the raga thrilled the singer as well as audience. Shri Mani Iyer got enthused by the versatile Kambhoji solo version of Shri Chowdiah which was rich in imagination and the phrasings in the Alapana were touching the souls.  The raga alapana session continued on and on for almost an hour, as both the Mani Iyer and Chowdiah submerged into the beauty of the raga.  That occasion also proved that Shri Chowdiah was capable of exhibiting purest form of Carnatic music without any gimmicks while he was often criticized for his instrumental gimmicks in concerts, especially during RTP.

Then Shri Mani Iyer started singing Thanam in a gentle Chatusra Nadai (Adhi thalam) which was quite different from his regular style, he normally used to sing Thanam in discrete patterns.  Now, Shri Palghat  Mani Iyer got enthused and joined the team by accompanying to the Thaanam.  This was the only occasion where Shri Palghat Mani Iyer played Mridangam to the Thanam singing of Shri Madurai Mani Iyer. 

The Thanam singing by Madurai Mani Iyer was started in the Vilamba Kaalam (Slow speed) in the lower Octave, and reached the peak, as he sang in Dhuritha Kaalam (High Speed) in the higher Octave. With the enthusiasm of all the three great stalwarts, the Thanam session continued for about half-an-hour. It was indeed a memorable occasion, when the melody of Mani Iyer was in full flow with a wonderful accompaniment of Chowdia and Palghat Mani Iyer. The thronging crowd at the concert place where in pin-drop silence with an ecstatic mood.

It was 12 in the midnight when Shri Mani Iyer then started singing his famous Pallavi Parimala Rangapathe in ADHI THALAM 4 KALAI!.  It was the only occasion witnessed by me, where my guru sang a 4 Kalai Pallavi. He excelled in this feat by exhibiting great control over laya.  He just causally controlled the 4 Kalai count in one beat! (instead of 4 beats). It was no easy task to control 4 beats in one beat while singing neraval of a pallavi.

This occasion revealed the tremendous prowess of  Shri Mani Iyer in the field of laya. He sang the four kalai Pallavi effortlessly much to the admiration and appreciation of the great Palghat Mani Iyer.

Palghat Mani Iyer, who normally used to keep silent while accompanying, extraordinality appreciated Madurai Mani Iyer with 'Ahaa' and 'Sabaash' for each neraval of his neraval phrase. He played a stunning thani avarthanam for the Pallavi.

The concert ended at 1.30 a.m.!. The duration of this memorable concert was about six hours!!

The performers as well as the audiences were submerged in the nectar of divine music.  'Thenai mondhai mondhayaa kudichaa maadiri ellaarum mayangi irundaa' (it was like drinking loads of honey) This was the commentary by all the rasikas at the end of the concert.

After the concert was over I asked my guru, as how did he all of a sudden started the Pallavi in 4 kalai? The master said with a smile  "Well, if, I could not sing even a 4 kalai Pallavi. I would not have got even a temple (free) concert. It was a mandatory in those days that any carnatic vocalist should sing 4 kalai, 8 kalai pallavis with Anuloma and Prathiloma to get a musician status".

This concert silenced many critics who were fans of Palghat Mani Iyer, who had been always under the impression that Madurai Mani Iyer was never a match to Palghat Mani Iyer and vice versa when compared to other great vocalist with whom Shri Palghat Mani Iyer teamed.

They were all in praise for my guru about his deep knowledge in laya.  It was a chance for them to realize that Madurai Mani Iyer was a naadha-laya Vidwan, no less in caliber than any other great laya Vidwans of yester years.

My guru, used to say that "You need not exhibit all that you know. You may know all the intricacies. Those skills might be well appreciated only by Vidhwans. But you should always remember to sing for the layman who his sitting before you waiting for his favorite song" 

The concert was concluded only after my master sang all his popular thukkadas!

Guru and Shishya
Shri Thiruvengad giving Vocal Support to Madurai Mani Iyer