Madurai Mani Iyer
At the tender age of nine, Mani Iyer had started his musical journey. Born on October 25 in 1912 in Madurai as only son to an erudite veteran in classical music, Ramaswamy Iyer, he had three sisters. His mother too was knowledgeable in classical music. Small wonder he imbibed an interest in music at an early age.
Music was soaked in the family. A cousin brother was well-known musician of the times Madurai Sri Pushpavanam Iyer. Madurai Mani Iyer received his early training in music through a 'gurukula vasam' under Sri Rajam Baghavathar, reportedly an expert in singing swaras. He learnt under Sri Rajam Baghavathar for two years. His father also taught him the discipline of the art and its niceties. Later, Madurai Mani Iyer studied under the tutelage of the famous Muthiah Baghavathar, who had begun a teaching institute called "Thyagaraja Vidyalayam" in Madurai.
The traditional moorings in music and his own deep abiding devotion to the art found encouragement from elders and Madurai Mani Iyer gave his first concert at the age of 12 in the year 1924 in Sivaganga district during a 'kumba abishegam' at a place called Alvak Kottai. It was a big success and more concerts came his way on a regular basis.
Madurai Mani Iyer's music is characterized by his uncanny ability to sing 'aduku swaras' (inspired consecutive additions of notes in the kalpana swara phase, which embellish the raga or kriti) and weave magical patterns in the 'swara-prasthara' stage of the concert. Invariably he wove such a magic with his swaras that the audience swayed to his music enjoying it thoroughly.
He had the ability to easily scale the octaves while singing. His "shruti sense" was perfect and he took special care to preserve this aspect of his music all through his life so that listeners got the full benefit of the 'bhava sangeetham' in his music in perfect alignment with the tonic note.
He was also a master of laya and bhava. So his music was rich in content and feelings. He had an original approach to presentation of the raga or kriti or swaras which came to be accepted by listening public and he was in great popularity and in great demand from all sabhas and for special occasions like a temple festival or marriage ceremony among the rich and famous.
He was conferred the title "Gana Kaladara" in 1943 in the temple town Tanjore.
He was well-informed and reading newspapers regularly was a passion. He provided rich fare in music for many years showing imagination and dared to present many new ragas and compositions. In time they became popular and his brand of music was loved by thousands of admirers.