|Madurai Mani Iyer|
The second stop on our tour of Carnatic lands is the very old city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Considered to be one of India’s oldest continuously inhabited cities dating back to the 5th century BC, Madurai is the cultural heart of the rich and ancient Tamil people. Centered around the giant Meenakshi temple which honours Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati (known as Meenakshi, locally) the old city is laid out in the form of a lotus. The temple commands the center and rippling out from it in concentric rippling circles lay the more mundane aspects of the city.
Madurai Mani Iyer (also spelled Ayyar) who died in 1968 was one of the greatest of the many famous artists, writers, musicians and actors who came from Madurai. Born in the early years of the 20th century MM, as he was fondly known by his adoring followers, was respected for his commitment to maintaining the highest artistic standards in his performance and his personal aura which people say made him the greatest Carnatic singer of the Golden Age. His voice was adored by not only connoisseurs but the masses as well. Some say even rickshaw pullers attended his concerts which speaks to his uncanny ability to communicate in very special way with his audience.
His approach to singing was founded in a deep appreciation of the ‘pure’ traditional foundations which he extolled to his many young apprentices. Yet like all great artists he was able to innovate and bend the traditions in ways that made his art something exhilarating and new. In the words of one admirer, “The seamless blending of melody and rhythm that he achieved were never to be seen in any other performance, even of the greatest of his contemporaries. They may overwhelm you with great melody or great rhythm but did not achieve the perfect blend of rhythm and melody so characteristic of M.M.”
The title of tonight’s post is Ganakaladhara Madurai Mani Iyer. The title Ganakaladhara (people’s artist) was bestowed on him by the high priests of Tamil culture in Thanjavur in 1943. No other artist has been given the title since. The details of this committed bachelor’s life are available at a site dedicated to him and simply conclude that it is indeed an honour to share this great man’s singing with you.
01 Thaye Yeshoda (Raga Thodi)
02 Kapali (Raga Mohanam)
03 Orajoobu (Raga Kannadagowla)
04 Dhunmargasara (Raga Ranjani)
05 Parimalarangapathe (Raga Kamboji)
06 Suki Evvaro (Raga Kanada)
07 Maye (Raga Tharangini)