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Authentic Musiri style

I HEARD with great sadness that Mani Krishnaswami had passed away. She and her husband, M.K., were family friends of mine. I had also known Mani during the years she was a disciple of my revered guru, Musiri Subramania Iyer.

Born in Vellore in 1930, she completed her high school education, and already her musical talent was very much in evidence. She had a high-pitched voice. Perfect in sruti alignment, and capable of rendering complicated brighas, she joined the Sangita Siromani course at Kalakshetra.

There she came under the influence of the legendary Tiger Varadachari and the gottu vadyam wizard, Budalur Krishnamurthi Sastrigal. The great vaggeyakara Mysore Vasudevacharya also took her under his wing, and taught her many of his own compositions.

The two defining points in her life were her marriage to M. Krishnaswamy, then an officer in the Parliament Secretariat, in 1954, and her coming under the tutelage of Musiri when M.K. moved from Delhi to Chennai. Musiri was a great exponent of bhava singing, and she imbibed the nuances of his style in full. Musiri was also famous for his special way of rendering neraval and this too became part of her musical lore.

Already, Mani had spent some time learning the art of pallavi singing from another musical great — Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer. Mani was thus a complete musician. When she rendered kritis like ``Brovavamma'' and ``Pahi Rama Chandra'', one could notice her total commitment to the Musiri style.

Many honours and awards came her way. The supreme accolade of Sangita Kalanidhi was conferred on her by the Music Academy in 1993. Earlier this year the President of India conferred on her Padmashri.

Mani went on a concert tour of the U.S. in 1979. She represented India at the Festival of Music in the USSR in 1988 and in Germany in 1991.

The world of Carnatic music is the poorer with her passing away.

C.V. NARASIMHAN

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