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Mridangam maestro Karaikudi R Mani passed away at 12.30 pm on May 4, 2023. He was 77.
Mani was credited with creating a tradition in mridangam playing that was innovative and featured his unique style. His demise has left a vacuum in the world of music.
Karaikudi Mani’s could be heard in each and every tap of the mridangam. His sense of rhythm and tempo were spot on every time. He had an exclusive crowd of fans for his solo performances. While playing on an ascending note, he would render each beat with impeccable clarity, his eyes fixed on the vocalist on stage.
Among Mani’s scores of disciples, the most noteworthy is Ramesh, an All India Radio artiste.
Mani got his first award at age 18 from President Dr S Radhakrishann. He won the National Award of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1998
Mani had Surajanandha as his master (guru).
Born to D Ramanatha Aiyar and Pattammal in Karaikudi on September 11, 1945, Mani learnt mridangam initially from Karaikudi Rangu Aiyar and later from T R Harihara Sarma and K M Vaidyanathan. Mani got his first award in life at age 18 from President Dr S Radhakrishan. He won the National Award of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1998.
Mani’s enthusiasm for playing the mridangam never waned. Just a few days ago, he even recorded an album. It no doubt brought out more of his unique skills.
Mani, who is one of India’s cultural ambassadors, showcased his extraordinary mridangam playing prowess at every concert. As far as rhythm is concerned, he can be regarded as an aficionado of novelty in south Indian classical music. Owing to his complete dedication and commitment to the art, even artists and students who did not belong to the style/school that had evolved in mridangam through Mani began to follow his style. There are about 1,200 disciples of Mani all over the world.
Mani had founded Shruti Laya, a novel percussion band, in 1984 and has performed all over the world. It is a group of top-notch artists who play the mridangam, one of the most prominent of India’s percussion instruments, collaborating with artists such as an Australian Jazz orchestra, led by Paul Grabowsky among others.
Shruti Laya Seva Trust and Shruti Laya Kendra, founded by Mani, are premier institutions for music and musicians and was run for the first time by a percussionist. In India, there are branches in Chennai, Mysore, Chalakudy and Hyderabad, and abroad in Australia, England and Germany.
Owing to his complete dedication and commitment to the art, even artists and students who did not belong to the style/school that had evolved in mridangam through Mani began to follow his style
It is well known that Mani was a pioneer of solo mridangam concerts, revolutionising the mridangam’s role in Carnatic concerts. He has played the percussion instrument for all leading musicians of South India. Mani is also known for adding a new dimension into the music of Bharatanatyam.
Devoted entirely to mridangam as he was, Mani preferred to be a bachelor.
Mani enhanced the value of rhythm in music and the role of the mridangam in it with determination and enthusiasm.
Mani, along with Srimathi Rajeswari Sainath, set up a company called Shruti Laya Kendra Natarajalaya and brought together melody, rhythm and dance.
Some people keep striving to leave the world better than it was. They are relentless in pursuing their goals. Such people and their legacy are immortal. Mridangam genius Karaikudi Mani belongs to the rare group of distinguished people.
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