Ludwig Pesch (Author of the Oxford Ilustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music) :
Manickam Yogeswaran is best known for his clear and expressive voice. A distinguished exponent of the “Carnatic” (classical) music of southern India and Sri Lanka, he has also excelled in fields as different as film and dance music besides integrated education. Being a fine composer and multi-instrumentalist as well, it hardly surprises that he is much in demand for enriching artistic collaborations with his personal style.
In spite of critical acclaim he refrains from being boastful (something most Indian music lovers revel in); instead he would reiterate how fortunate he has been even in the face of adversity. “Yoga”, as he is affectionately known among friends, points to a childhood spent among musicians whose presence sanctified the atmosphere in temples near his home. There sacred music has flourished from time immemorial, and the great saint-singers of the Tamil speaking world have remained household names in the face of globalisation.
In such an environment, steeped in music and conducive to learning without social barriers, it is but natural for him to express himself through music. He gratefully recalls that music and musical appreciation were generally of a high order.
For centuries, his place of birth has been known for fostering music of a high order. Indian sources describe the magnetic pull this region exerted on master musicians and dancers. In such an ambience, formal training was readily available though hardly a requirement for aspiring musicians. The precious gift of learning by constant listening, combined with spontaneous singing means that doors readily opened for Manickam Yogeswaran when his family moved to London. There “native” musicians were quick to seize this opportunity, namely to hone their skills with his help.
Understanding the subtleties of Raga and Tala calls for a continuous exchange of practical expertise as well as theoretical knowledge. For Manickam Yogeswaran the concept of “lifelong learning” needs to be put into practice rather than fussed about: it is an indispensable part of an art centered on gracious sharing between creative musicians and discerning listeners.
Not surprisingly such music has more to offer than career opportunities. Having seen Manickam Yogeswaran perform and teach in many places, I admire the way he endows each note and every rhythmic figure with exquisite beauty. In spite of his vocal prowess one remembers an ethereal quality that elicits appreciation from experts and lay listeners alike. This may also explain why his music overcomes cultural barriers so effortlessly while celebrating diversity where it truly matters. Here I am reminded of the artistic ideal invoked by Asia’s first Nobel-Awardee, the poet-composer Rabindranath Tagore who famously wrote:
“But, the singer has everything within him. The notes come out from his very life. They are not materials gathered from outside. His idea and his expression are brother and sister; very often they are born as twins. ” (Sadhana, the Realisation of Life)
Ludwig Pesch, Amsterdam