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Sangeetha Yogis
11 July, 2012

-contributed by Ghatam Vaidyanathan Suresh

Every great art form puts itself into self assessment within a time frame, and ensures that, God, who created such an art for humanity, also in His best disposition, creates “leading lights” in regular intervals, to assertively reestablish and maintain the art’s superiority and glory.

A Purandara dasa, a Thyagaraja, a Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan….and the like… one for every generation…and then a M D Ramanathan…..a Palghat Mani Iyer….. for us!

‘Carl Jung’, the founder of analytical psychology said…. "Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."

I humbly and strongly believe that a great awakening had happened in the musical conscience of both Shri Palghat Mani Iyer and Shri M D Ramanathan since both could look into their bountiful hearts. They had music force in them well before they arrived on the scene.

For them, the world at large just existed by sheer effect of nature, and except for their mentors of their respective genres, nothing in the world mattered to them as much as their music.

They had their own inner universe of music, wherein they formed the most beautiful and adorable deity of aesthetic and matured music, out of the seeds of creativity sown by their mentors, and nurtured by their own instinct.

Their vision was focused on the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos of melodic and rhythmic notes, which were shaking the still mind of a rasika, bringing ecstatic goose bumps, only to drive it back to tranquility.

Both these musicians stood far above the rest in identifying the musical magnificence and nullifying the difference between body and soul by their musical sadana.

I have heard from my guru Padmabhushan Sri T V Gopalakrishnan who immensely adored both MDR and Mani iyer, that both were communicating to the most intellectual yet connecting with commonest!

While Mani iyer was a master in thrillers pushing the rasika to the edge of the seat, MDR would unwind the same mind with a soothing karmic massage!

Were they practicing Sangeetha Yoga? I am too a novice to attempt the analysis.

Palghat Mani Iyer, the Paramount!

Mani iyer was, and continues to be an iconic figure, mentor and God of mridangam for innumerable laya vidwans who succeeded him. His sheer posture, poise and intense look were a great inspiration and influence for generations till now, apart from his fingering techniques, choice of phrases and pristine perfect tone and measure.

Brevity and certainty were his strongest points. He would hijack the minds of the listener for a full fifteen minutes of his solo which would invariably be a concentrate of laya syrup. Every laya vidwan after his times has been perpetually decoding the seemingly complex presentation. Today, we see only inevitable dilution of his exclusive patterns which is a proof to his inimitability.

Mani iyer’s presence on stage was very dominant and captivating. I have heard that right from his teens Mani iyer has been casting this overwhelming personality throughout the concert like the charming Lord Krishna or brawny Anchaneya!

But such charm and power were gladly desired by the singers and instrumentalists of his generation. They believed that he carried their sophisticated musical endowment on his shoulders and made them palpable both to the class and the mass.

The “Mani mania” was huge…. a “laya blitz” bringing opulence …. It made vidwans more aesthetic and rasikas more refined. Reverberating from their right side, it made the music of many geniuses, reverential! A few who could not bear, tried professional offence, only to forfeit before long.

M D Ramanathan, The Mystic!

M D Ramanathan was a charmer who could control the minds and hearts of the listeners like snakes. I would expediently equate MDR to Bhagavan Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in exploration and attainment.

The former’s was musical while the latter’s spiritual. Both were linking with the imperceptible almighty through their musical and spiritual discoveries respectively, and yet constantly enlightening us, the seekers, that “He is omnipresent”. If it was Ramakrishna’s quotes, it was MDR’s music that emphasized divinity.

As a sincere devotee of his mentor Tiger Varadachariyar, MDR enjoyed being a blind follower of the guru and it was that deliberation that made MDR’s music immortal. He even dutifully followed his voice culture apart from style, poise and principle. Looking at his command over languages, devotion and humility in his compositions, one can see a constant attempt in the conscience of MDR for self realization and elevation very similar to that of Trinities and the like.

It will be absolute immaturity to put MDR in the legion of “musicians who entertain”. As much as his life span could allow, he was exploring the immense spectrum of ragas and prostrating to almighty with any raga that his mind picks. That is why till date, and forever we would fail to name one raga or kruti which is “non MDRish”

MDR’s layam was a great sight to watch. Yes! Certainly one could not perceive his hand and finger gestures indicating a tala. But neither the co-musicians, nor the learned listeners complained. My guru TVG sir says, he always felt utmost comfort with the laya of MDR and Chembai. The reason was, it was brahma layam…. One with divinity!

When a Paramount Palghat Mani Iyer and a Mystical MDR share a stage, and contemplate, communicate and even compete to conquer the “nada brahmam”, one thing is certain to happen. The audience would get a feel of transcendence. It is enviable that many of today’s senior citizens have lived through such divinity that is never going to repeat.

Today’s carnatic music to a large extent has become entertaining and stimulating. Packaged, power house performance is what most of today’s performers believe in. Honestly many of them are rock drummers in attitude to carnatic music and… it sells well. The few who have a different perception either stay away quietly or surrender openly. The audiences know it obviously. They do not have a choice. Because, God, times his creation incontestably. We, the audience, have to endure. But the same audience who throng the auditorium for today’s music do not fail to immerse into the music of MDR and Palghat Mani Iyer, at least by listening to their immortal music through electronic devices, to ward off the contemptible stimulations.

My humble pranams to the divine spirits of Palghat Mani Iyer and MDR to enlighten me to understand their music tread their path!

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