Madurai Mani Iyer carved out a niche for himself by introducing a whole new style of Carnatic music. His music was filled with some unique elements that ultimately enslaved the hearts of millions around the world. This style, born out of strong musical influences from his childhood and perfected to suit his voice capabilities was his own and inimitable.
He considered shruthi as the most important aspect of music and understood that true melody was only possible when shruthi sense was absolute. He had perfect shruthi alignment while singing any ragam, thanam, neraval, kalpana swaram or compositions. His music was pitch-perfect and as someone so eloquently put it “Even if the sun rises in the west and oceans trip over themselves, Madurai Mani would never deviate from shruthi”. He still remains the benchmark against whom all others are measured in this aspect of music.
Mani Iyer was also an indubitable master of singing swaras. He followed the simple and rhythmic sarvalaghu style of swara singing and generally avoided mathematical complexities. He could create a myriad of patterns with his swaras to embellish the raga spontaneously, thereby exhilarating his listeners.
His Raga alapanas consisted of short verses and unconventional phrases like “lalala” and “oouee”. He believed that these syllables when used appropriately adds more beauty to the raga. Though his verses were short, they did not sound disjointed. It was like a continuous chain and when these short pieces were fitted together, the raga was expressed holistically.
While Singing Ragam, His very first phrase would touch the nerve point of the raga. He used to touch the jeeva swara of the raga and start the alapana. The result was that the listener could identify and connect with the raga instantaneously. He wanted everyone to understand what he was singing and therefore never resorted to keeping his audience guessing about the raga.
He maintained the raga bhavam and raga lakshsnam throughout while singing. The flavor of the raga would be distinctly heard at every point of his singing. He also did not believe in elaboration just for the sake and thus his portrayal of ragas and swaras never went beyond the sphere commanded by each raga.