MS Subbulakshmi: The geetham is still alive in air

MS Subbulakshmi: The geetham is still alive in air

Today is the 100th birth anniversary of legendary M S Subbulakshmi, the legendary singer. Various events have been organised to pay glowing tributes to her.

The Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi Centenary Awards were presented on Tuesday at a ceremony in Mumbai to seven of India’s most-respected women artistes — vocalists Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, Aruna Sairam and Vishaka Hari; dancers Yamini Krishnamurthy and Vyjayantimala Bali; and Pandavani exponent Teejan Bai.

The film 1947 film, Meera, brought MS national acclaim. The image of Meera became synonymous with MS. There was something about her character, her innocence, her vulnerability and her total disinterest in money.

Hindustani singer Kishori Amonkar said M.S. Subbulakshmi was an exemplary ambassador of Indian classical music in both India and abroad. She used the occasion to give a message: the promotion of Indian classical music be seriously considered by the Cultural Ministry. “I am seeing a gradual deterioration in the younger generation and I think the Ministry should take this seriously and see that classical music survives and continues to provide bliss to many.”

She was the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. She is the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize, in 1974 with the citation reading “Exacting purists acknowledge Srimati M. S. Subbulakshmi as the leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the carnatic tradition of South India.”

She started learning Carnatic music at an early age and trained in Carnatic music under the tutelage of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and subsequently in Hindustani music under Pandit Narayanrao Vyas.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had this to say about M.S. Subbulakshmi- “Who am I, a mere Prime Minister before a Queen, a Queen of Music”. While Lata Mangeshkar called her Tapaswini (the Renunciate), Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan termed her Suswaralakshmi (the goddess of the perfect note), and Kishori Amonkar labelled her the ultimate eighth note or Aathuvaan Sur, which is above the seven notes basic to all music. The great national leader and poet Sarojini Naidu called her “Nightingale of India”. Her many famous renditions of bhajans include the chanting of Bhaja Govindam, Vishnu sahasranama (1000 names of Vishnu), Hari Tuma Haro and the Venkateswara Suprabhatam (musical hymns to awaken Lord Balaji early in the morning).