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Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer

Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer:

Viswanatha Iyer was born in Maharajapuram to Rama Iyer, a singer in 1896.

He was trained initially by Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer, a direct disciple of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer had learnt from a direct disciple of Tyagaraja and thus Viswanatha Iyer represents the fifth generation of the Tyagaraja School.

A unique feature about his music was his great success in raga elaboration in great detail. The raga alapana of Mohanam was one of his specialties. His has been hailed as the success of 'kalpana sangeetha', music rich with imagination in raga elaboration and swara singing, a specialty of his.
His prominent disciples include Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar, and his own son Maharajapuram Santhanam..
He won several awards including Sangeetha Kalanidhi and Sangeetha Bhupathy.
Died at the age of 74 in the year 1970

From V.Sriram's book:

MVI in his early years had an incredible voice and could sing in F# (4.5 kattai) and at unbelievable speed. His raga alapanas had incredible imagination (look at his elaboration of Ataana).

However he also got influenced by not so favourable company at some time and got into some bad habits -- he temporarily lost his voice at one point –

after which Ariyakudi regained his top spot for good.

However he recovered most of his voice (it had gone husky and he had lost his range in the lower octave -- all the recordings I have show that he was just able to sing at shadja). He didn't lose his brighas or his speed or the range in his upper octave though and used it to his full effect.

His ragas and svaras were always fresh. His raga singing especially could always keep bringing out fresh dimensions and he would sing ragas to the limit of their acceptable boundaries. He even borrowed Hindustani touches into CM ragas and that's how he developed his unique style of mohanam.

However his fresh imagination meant that he never sang a krithi the same way twice and always kept improvising different sangathis every time making it difficult to students to learn. He would get impatient with his students if they didn't immediately grasp his lightning flashes.

On top of it, his memory was notorious and he once took one song of Tyagaraja in Harikambhoji till the anupallavi and then sang the charanam of another krithi of the composer instead due to a memory slip!!
When Santhanam once chided him for that, he was supposed to have said that it didn't matter because both songs were in the same raga and tala and by the same composer and both were anyway on Lord Rama only!!

Once, to explain repeating a krithi quite often, he picked someone in the audience, looked at him in the eye and said that he had been requested to do so by that person!

In concerts, he went wherever his music took him and it was all spontaneous.

Being totally dependent on his moods, audiences would have to wait till he managed to settle into the "singing mood", but the music was well worth the wait. Once he was in form, the organizers would immediately put up the notice outside the hall and it was not long before the hall would be filled up.

On one occasion he kept twiddling his buttons till K.B. Sundarambal got up and asked him if he was in control of his voice or the other way round. That did the job and soon he was in full flow!

More details about him are at:

You can get his files here for Listening/ downloading...

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