By M.K.Sudarshan <email@example.com>
Born on 3rd February, 1930, Mani Perundevi (maiden name) studied upto SSLC at Vellore. From her childhood, Mani had a predilection for Music, possessed a natural gift for singing and a high-pitched musical voice. Her parents decided to put her to Music though Mani wanted to study medicine. Mani gratefully acknowledges the initial personal attention given to her during elementary training by teachers like Ellayya and Murugan of Vellore. Well known names in the Music World in 1930's and 1940's like Jalatarangam Venkataramanayya Chetti and Tirupparkadal Srinivasa Iyengar taught her at Vellore and it was decided that she should join Kalakshetra after SSLC. Kalakshetra of Smt.Rukmini Devi at Adyar, Madras, had no difficulty in admitting Mani for the Sangeeta Siromani Course as she had earned the appreciation even at an early age of giants like Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Sri T Chowdiah who awarded her prizes at music competitions in Vellore.
Tiger Varadachari at Kalakshetra took a parental interest in Mani's musical education and she profited considerably under his influence. Other stalwarts at Kalakshetra included veteran Budalur Krishnamoorthi Sastrigal whose vocal prowess was no less than as a Gottuvadyam exponent and he taught her number of Kritis of the Trinity in the authentic style. Sri.T.K.Ramaswami Iyengar was another teacher of hers at Adyar. After getting the Sangeeta Siromani, she pursued post-graduate study for Pallavi from the great Mudicondan Venkataram Iyer.
Mysore Vasudevacharyya, at Kalakshetra, also personally taught Mani a number of his compositions - a rare treasure of which Mani is legitimately proud today. Mani can also play on violin which was her secondary subject.
A scholarship from Government of India for advanced study enabled her to continue learning in New Delhi under the great Violinist Sri.T.K.Jayarama Iyer of All India Radio.
After a year, she moved to Madras again to continue her lessons under the great Musiri Subramania Iyer for over a decade. Mani entered into a new era of her musical career after she came under the tutelage of veteran Sri.Musiri. Today she is one of the most authentic exponents of the inimitable Musiri school.
Mani Krishnaswami has won the following awards :
1973- Sangeeta Vidya Saraswathi Narasapuram (Andra Pradesh)
1974- Divya Gana Praveena Desika Darsana Sabha, Madras
1979- Sangeeta Choodamani Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Madras
1980- Asthana Vidwan T.T. Devasthanam, Tirupati
1981- Nada Chintamani Udipi (Karnataka)
1987- Suswara Sukta Laya Sangeetha Tambaram, Madras
1987- Central Sangeet Natak Academy Award
1988- Nada Kanal Madras
1989- Ganakala Chakrawarthi Calcutta Fine Arts Club
1990- Sangitha Kalamrita Sathguru Gnananda, Mandaveli, Madras
1990- Tyagaraja Award Madras Telugu Academy
1991- 'Kalamamani' Award by Tamil Nadu Government State Academy
1992- TTK Memorial Award Music Academy, Madras
1992- Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwan Mani Sri Tyagaraja Trust, Tirupati
1993- Sangita Kalanidhi Madras Music Academy
1994- Honorary Doctorate Sri.Venkateshwara University, Tirupati
1995- Asthana Vidwan Sri.Ahobila Mutt, Srirangam
1995- Asthana Vidwan Sri.Andavan Ashram, Srirangam
In 1979, at the invitation of the Carnatic Music Society of North America, Mani Krishnaswami went on a 3-month concert tour coast to coast in USA and parts of Canada. She was, for a short period, Visiting Faculty at San Fransisco University.
Besides concert performances, Mani Krishnaswami has done commendable service in the promotion of devotional music. A number of her casettes have come out : Adi Sankara's "Soundaraya Lahari" obtained for her the benediction of His Holiness, the Paramacharya of Kamakotipeetam. Similarly Vedanta Desikan's Dayasatakam, Goda Stuthi, Narayana kavacham etc. have won for her the blessings and grace of His Holiness Srimad Andavan Swami and His Holiness the Jeer of Ahobila Mutt. Likewise, cassettes of Mysore Vasudevacharya's Kritis, Navagraha Kritis of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Gopika Geetham, Lalitha Sahasranamam won for her the admiration of musicians as well as of the general public.
Her recent contribution is the cassette on Muthuswamy Dikshitar's Navaa Varna Kritis. The Hindu reviewing this cassette said "Of the thematic compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar, Kamalamba Navavarna Kritis have a special appeal to musicians as offering a challenge in rendering them competently. The gait of the compositions is ponderous and a musician, in enunciating sahitya, has to be extra careful as the words are deemed to contain the efficacious benefits of an incantation of mantras. Mani Krishnaswami who has rendered them in two cassettes, has lived upto her reputation as one for whom sahitya is of as much importance as the musical garb in which kritis are clothed. Whether the song is in Tamil, Telugu or Sanskrit, Mani always bestows extra attention to sahitya."
Her latest contribution is a cassette rendering of Desika's"Achuta Satakam" in Prakrit language and it is set to music. It is amazing that she could render it in the ancient language so faithfully.
Smt.Mani Krishnaswami had been to USSR for participation in Festival of India in May/June 1988. Only two lady vocalists represented Carnatic Music in the Festival -- one Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi and the other Smt. Mani Krishnaswami. Smt.Mani was accompanied on violin by Meera Narayanan (now Sivaramakrishnan) and on mridangam by Ramanathapuram Sri.M.N.Kandaswami. Her tour was an unqualified success judged by the reports received from USSR. She gave, in all 17, recitals at different cities of (then)USSR and according to her it was a "rewarding experience".
Smt.Mani Krishnaswami had been to Germany in 1991 to participate in the Festival of India. She gave about 17 recital in different cities of Germany and before returning to India, gave three recitals in London. Her recital in London was under auspices of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and secured for her a tremendous ovation from the huge gathering in Lord Mountbaten Hall.
The well-known music critic Subbudu once wrote about Mani Krishnaswami :
"Her voice, at once golden and mellifluous, fetching any phrase or note in whatever pitch, is her asset. From 'Varnam' to 'Tillana' it can sustain a recital, without a single false note. In this aspect, she is next only to Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi."