Alamelu Mani was conferred Sri Shanmukananda Dr M S Subbulakshmi Sangeetha Pracharya Award. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

At 84, classical singer and music guru Alamelu Mani is unstoppable. Performing and teaching music for six decades now, Mani says music comes to her naturally.

“I was just three (years old) when my grandmother introduced me to music. My father, Varadhan, used to play the harmonium for Tamil dramas staged in Mumbai. So, music was just the way of life for me, and I loved it so much that I decided to dedicate my life to it,” she told The Indian Express.

Mani was conferred the prestigious Sri Shanmukananda Dr M S Subbulakshmi Sangeetha Pracharya Award on the occasion of the 103rd birth anniversary of the legendary singer on the second day of the event held at Sri Shanmukananda hall on Sunday. On Saturday, 50 budding musicians from across the country were felicitated with the award and Rs 1 lakh prize money for a period of three years.

A doyenne of Carnatic music, Mani has taught more than 1,000 students from around the world at South Indian School of Music – she has been at the helm of the institution since 1963.

Underlining the importance of gurus or teachers in a musician’s career, she said, “Where I came from, a guru is almost like god for a student. My first guru was my husband H A S Mani, who was also the first principal of Sri Shanmukananda Vidyalaya. After he passed away in 1963, T Brinda, who we lovingly called ‘Brindamma’, came like an angel in my life in 1964. I have learned so much from her.”

“Students today are as hardworking as ever and it is great to see so much enthusiasm. It makes me so happy that our music has a bright future,” she said.

Dr V Shankar, president of Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha credited Mani for her constant endeavours in the field of music. “She is an evergreen personality and is a great example to all her students and fans. Her son, Padma Shri A Hariharan, has been carrying on her rich legacy,” Shankar said.

Shankar said the award was instituted in 2004 when he had managed to convince Bharat Ratna Dr M S Subbulakshmi to allow her name to be to associated with it.

A leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the Carnatic tradition of South India, Subbulakshmi is the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1974 and Bharat Ratna in 1998.