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On the first Sunday of every month, an audience assembles on the outskirts of Mangaluru in Karnataka as early as 6 am. They come to attend the concert titled ‘Udaya Raga’ (morning raga) conducted by the Mani Krishnaswami Academy at Surathkal. And, the venue is not a concert hall but the underpass of a flyover.
Mani Krishnaswamy or Mani Perundevi (1930 – 2002) hailed from Tamil Nadu. She was a leading carnatic music singer and alumnus of Kalashetra. A Padma Shri awardee, Mani Krishnaswamy had the distinction of being trained by five giants of Carnatic music namely Mysore Vasudevachar, Budalur Krishnamurthy Saastry, Musiri Subramanya Iyer, Tiger Varadachariar and Paapanasam Sivan.

Mani Krishnaswamy or Mani Perundevi (1930 – 2002) hailed from Tamil Nadu. She was a legendary Carnatic singer and alumnus of Kalashetra. A Padma Shri awardee, Mani Krishnaswamy achieved new heights in Carnatic music during her time.

Founder of Mani Krishnaswami Academy, Nithyananda Rao explains. “The academy was started in 2002, the year the legendary singer passed away. My daughter Prarthana learnt Carnatic music from her. So, we thought it would be fitting to start an academy in memory of her,” he said.

When the Swacch Bharat initiative was launched in Mangaluru, the academy coordinated with the town’s Nagarika Samiti (residents association) to keep the underpass of the flyover tidy. A monthly music concert was something novel. The stakeholders including truck and van drivers gave their support. And, the morning raga started flowing under the flyover every first Sunday of the month. “We have been holding the concert every month since 2018. We stopped for a while when covid19 raged. We did start the initiative again once Covid subsided,” Rao said.

 

Mani Krishnaswamy receiving the Padma Shri

Mani Krishnasway’s disciple Prarthana now lives in Chennai. She is a professional musician training students and conducting concerts. When she expressed her wish to train in Carnatic music, Nithyananda Rao approached acclaimed saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath, who also hailed from Mangaluru. He suggested Mani Krishnaswamy and he spoke to her recommending the young disciple who was studying Class 8 in 1996. Maniamma was not very active due to her old age but she obliged. And, the tutoring happened for the next six years during vacations and on a full scale when Prarthana moved to Chennai for her college studies.

When the Swacch Bharat initiative was launched in Mangaluru, the academy coordinated with the town’s Nagarika Samiti (residents association) to keep the underpass of the flyover tidy. A monthly music concert was something novel. The stakeholders including the truck and van drivers coordinated to facilitate this initiative

“I was quite interested in Carnatic music and was doing concerts already. But she immediately pointed out my basics were not right when I met her. It was not something nice for a 13-year-old but, looking back, I am immensely thankful to her for pointing it out”, she said.

 
The next four years were the rigorous practice of learning the basics. “She would teach me basics and I would be left alone to sing for next three or four hours. She was a strict teacher. But I was willing to go that extra mile to learn from her,” Prarthana said.

Mani Krishnaswamy with young Prarthana

“It was like being with a goddess of music. Legends like her take time to get you under their wings. Once it happens, there is no going back and when she died in 2002, it was difficult to come to terms with it. So my father started an academy on her name in our native place, Mangaluru,” she added.

The academy initially conducted a memorial concert once a year. But it turned out to be a monthly event when they started collaborating for Swacch Mangaluru.
After almost four years of the run, the venue was changed recently. The ongoing road construction work near the flyover is making it difficult to conduct concerts. “After consulting with Nagarika Samiti, we have shifted the venue to our house temporarily. We would consult all stakeholders again and move it back to the old spot later,” Nithyananda Rao added.

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