Many firsts to his credit

by Srilatha Krishna

The first impression one gets of T.A.S. Mani is of warmth and gentleness, traits that are also conveyed in his mridangam play. Known for brevity in his role as an accompanist, he is among the few percussionists who retain old-time musical sensibilities.

Born T.A. Subrahmanyan in a family of musicians, it was natural for him to take to music. His grand-uncle was the legendary musician Palghat Anantharama Bhagavatar. His paternal uncle, Someshwara Bhagavatar and father Arunachala Bhagavatar were musicians. However, his was a large family of modest means. When he started his percussion lessons with Ayyamani Iyer in Bengaluru at the age of seven, the lessons were sporadic at best. Yet, it was sheer determination and discipline that allowed him to progress. As his sisters Jayam and Bhagyam were performing vocalists, he gained access to the concert stage at a very young age. T.B. Narasimhachar, then secretary of Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha, was a well-wisher who encouraged him with many concert opportunities and suggested that he use the lucky name ‘Mani’ on stage.

With increasing concert opportunities, T.A.S. Mani started accompanying many senior artists. Browsing through photo albums of his concerts is like walking through a portrait gallery of leading musicians of the past. The divergent styles of the older generation of artists he accompanied, like B.S. Rajam Iyengar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Mysore Mahadevappa, D.K. Pattammal, Salem Desikan, Veena Doreswamy Iyengar, Sattur A.G.Subramaniam and M.S. Gopalakrishnan allowed him to adopt a flexible style early in his career… read more