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The master from Madurai

Mani Iyer sings a neat Kalyani in this re-issue

Madurai Mani Iyer
Rs 45

Madurai Mani Iyer has always been a special favourite of old-timers. For them he represents modern verve in Karnatak music. Perhaps for this very reason he had his detractors. Some ridiculed him for singing alapanas using the syllables la-la instead of ta-da-ri-na. But he could in the briefest of sangatis paint a raga and leave the listener satisfied with its essence.

This re-release features his short, to the point raga Khamach. T N Krishnan does not accompany in the same temper of simplicity and style, instead he sticks to cliched phrases and his pace is a bit too forced.

The Tyagaraja kriti Seethapathe follows. Vellore Ramabhadran with his sarvalaghu bores. Even the tone of the mrudangam lapses into dullness. One realises the wealth of the various mrudangam strokes only in their absence. Mani Iyer's neraval on Prema choosi na pai and swaraprasthara are light and characteristic of his music. But the lightness is not to be confused with frivolity, it's rather a sort of cheerful zest.

Samajavaragamana in Hindolam is another Tyagaraja composition. The alapana is again brief. Mani Iyer's tape concerts don't feature lingering or long alapanas. His swaraprasthara on Yaadava kula is racy, with a few simple kannakku phrases. But it has a great sense of form and direction.

Side B features Kalyani, an intimate and thankfully more detailed study of this major raga. T N Krishnan too keeps close to the contemplative mood. Muthuswamy Dikshithar's Kamalamba Bhajare, a Navavarna kriti, follows.

The tape has a very soothing effect. There is no flurried or aggressive edge to the swaraprastharas. Mani Iyer comes across as a peaceful lake untroubled by the turbulence of competitiveness.

S Suchitra Lata

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