A Tribute to M.S.Subbulakshmi; 1916 -2004

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This page is moving to a new location. In order to improve the blog an add more useful and interesting features we have created a new blog at : www.blog.msstribute.org.

You can also visit the new Facebook Page

Many thanks for following this blog. We hope to see you on our new pages.




Sunday, December 16, 2012

MSS and Pandit Ravi Shankar

The MS I Knew

"M.S. Subbulakshmi was a simple woman with divinity in her voice" Pandit Ravi Shankar

In the foreword for the book MS & Radha by Gowri Ramnarayan,
Pandit Ravi Shankar wrote about meeting MS for the first time :
"met her for the first time after my first solo recital at the Madras Music Academy in end December 1949. It was  a most thrilling experience to see her sitting in the front row along with all the senior, great musicians. I heard her, during that same period and many more times in several parts of the world. I became an ardent fan of hers like millions of others."

MSS Tribute Gallery - A picture of MSS and Pandit Ravi Shankar - (Third Picture)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

MSS at the UN - 1966


Link to the article in the Hindu  : Moment of pride for all Indians 

"The day was October 23. MS held the distinguished audience in thrall."

Link to Youtube video featuring a couple of songs -

MSS Tribute website -  Link to photos from the UN Tour

MSS Tribute website - Link to the brochure  prepared in conjunction with M.S.Subbulakshmi’s 1966 concert tour of      Europe and North America which included the concert for the United Nations General Assembly 

Friday, November 16, 2012

MSS - Kalyani - Festival of India

Here is  a link to a video of MSS singing Kalyani Ragam at the Festival of India in Moscow

From Gowri Ramnarayan's article in the Hindu Folio -  Transcending time and space 

"The year 1988, the place Rachmaninoff Hall, Moscow. M. S. Subbulakshmi sings a resonant Kalyani, with the nuanced depth that would move a diehard Mylapore connoisseur. But the packed hall of Russian listeners, some of them experts in western music as performers, scholars and students, are mesmerised by the vocal magic. To most of them, this is the first exposure to Indian, and certainly Carnatic music. During a pause, a woman comes up to the
stage to offer flowers, with tears spilling down her cheeks. There is rapt silence for the two hours of the recital. Then a roar of thunder. The standing ovation continues, the applauding listeners follow the artiste as she makes her way out of the hall, down the staircase, and into the car on the street..."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MS - Sankarabaranam

From  the book MS & Radha by  Gowri Ramnarayan

" More than any other raga, MS was identified with Sankarabaranam. Her kritis were each a  gem - Akshaya linga vibho, Sarojadala netri, Shri Dakshinamurte, Sankaracharyam, Shri Chandrasekhara yatindram ...

He (Semmangudi) was to call her Gandaralakshmi .."

In her article the MS Phenomenon published in the Hindu Frontline,  Gowri Ramnarayan writes

"Precisely these aspects mark Subbulakshmi's singing. This is true of those portions without verbal elements, like the raga alapana. Just as the devotee individuates the deity through incantation and description - detailing every limb, look and ornamentation - the singer shapes the raga, always starting
with clear strokes to pedestal its identity and going on to breathe it to form and life. The enunciation of the antara gandhara (Sankarabharanam, Khambhoji, Pantuvarali, Kedaragowla) in the upper register -as a long-held note, as the end-point of embellishments, or the pivot of note clusters, mounts to fever pitch. Hands sculpt the air, face turns upwards, eyes gaze at the beyond, and suddenly there comes the madhyama/panchama climax and the rounded process of the conclusion, all accomplished with seemingly effortless grace. After plumbing the depths and soaring to the heights, the listener emerges into quietude."

Link - MS singing Sankarabaranam

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sep 16 - Birth Anniversary of MS

"All her life, Subbulakshmi was to be hypnotised by the sound of tambura strings. There was clinical absorption in her act of tuning the two tamburas, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, each with ivory vignettes of the goddesses on the stem. With multi-stringed Miraj tamburas, this became sheer obsession. (She rewarded daughter and vocal accompanist Radha with her warmest smile whenever she achieved perfect tuning in the twin tamburas). Time stood still as she played the strings and sang slow phrases, pausing on different notes to exult, “Can you hear the gandhara now? Madhyama? Nishada?” Then, reluctantly, she would place the tambura on the mat, touching the stem with her fingers and pressing them lightly on her eyes in a gesture of worship.

Even her childhood games revealed Kunja’s absorption in the art form. One of them started with tuning the tambura carefully until the plucked strings cast a spell with their resonance. Eyes closed, she was lost in another world. Then she stopped, sang without the tambura, and plucked the strings again to check if she had stayed true to sruti. Throughout the day, in between household jobs, she kept returning to the tambura to see if she could recall that pitch steadily and accurately."   

Link to the full excerpt from MS and Radha by Gowri Ramnarayan :

Thursday, August 9, 2012

MS and Meera

Brindavan to Dwaraka — Meera's pilgrimage -  Link Gowri Ramnarayan's article in the Hindu

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MS - Multiple facets of Thodi

Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in Todi raga, set to Khanda Jhampa tala (2 kalai chowkam)

Munnu Ravana (1/2)
Munnu Ravana (2/2)

Kamalambike at the "Mummoorthigal Vizha" at Tiruvarur

Saturday, June 30, 2012

MS and Semmangudi

"THOUGH M.S. Subbulakshmi assimilated her vast repertoire from many sources, she always acknowledged the late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer as her guru. He infused depth and grandeur to Subbulakshmi's music, strengthened her alapana, niraval, and swara, and taught her majestic compositions."

Link to the entire article is below : 

A Guru on His Sishya - Article by Gowri Ramnarayan in the Hindu 

An excerpt from MS & Radha - Saga of Steadfast Devotion by  Gowri Ramnarayan

"He (Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer) noted several special qualities about her voice. It was not just pleasing and pitch perfect but had a  reenkaram (reverberation), sounding the same up close and at a distance;  it was not distorted or weakened when you heard it from different directions.  It had gatram (weight), and remarkable continuity, " When you strike a temple bell, the echo continues after the sound ends, until the next striking.  Her voice has that quality.  when she stops singing, the naadam (sound) continues"

Monday, May 14, 2012

MS - Aesthetics, Appropriateness, Enunciation, Sruti and Swarasthana Suddham

Excerpts from Gowri Ramnarayan's MS & Radha: Saga of Steadfast Devotion

MS Subbulakshmi’s music notebooks testified to her all round concern for every aspect of rachita or composed music, a vital part of Carnatic music dear to musicians as the outpourings of saintly souls in Telugu, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil and Malayalam. MS sang in north Indian languages too, mainly Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.

Every one of these songs, by composers old and new, was first inscribed with its meaning in her notebook, and then each phrase notated with its literal and metaphoric meanings. Music notation came next.

The initial learning process included checking diction, emphasis, and the right spot where a phrase could be split in melodising. Experts were consulted to ensure accuracy.

Her vak suddham (lucid enunciation) matched her sruti suddham (fidelity to pitch). Instinct might have played its part, but the effort expended on such mastery was considerable.

Kunjamma thought her music through and shaped her own original aesthetics. Like the ancient Indian aestheticians she believed that auchitya or appropriateness was essential for art that was allusive, art that strove for the sublime."

For full article -  please read  The Process Behind the MS Magic

"When she recorded Kamban’s Ramayana verses, Tamil scholar Justice MM Ismail was consulted before she embarked on the project, as also before the actual recording. Notably, none of these recordings saw her hold the written text in her hand. Learning by heart was vital to truly knowing the words and melody, to flawless delivery in performance."

Here is a Youtube link of a recording of Kamba Ramayana verses :

Youtube - Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi-Kamba Ramayana padalgal 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

MS sings for Radha and Anandhi's Bharatanatyam Recitals

L-R : Shri Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, Radha, Smt MS, Shri TKC, Vijaya and Anandhi

Aduvome Pallu Paduvome : Dance and Sing with Joy!

Original Article written by Smt. Anandhi Ramachandran, published in Kalki Magazine, and can be found at http://www.msstribute.org/people/aduvome-paduvome.php

Article describes the preparation leading up to Radha and Anandhi's Arangetram and also subsequent recitals.

A rough translation of the original article is enclosed below.

We did our abhinaya to the singing by MS (Smt M. S Subbulakshmi). The celebrated photographer Nagaraja Rao snapped the photos of Radha (Smt Radha Viswanathan) and myself individually, as well as together.

Until now, we had both learned all our dance items together in class. But, for the past week, our teacher Ramiah Pillai made us each dance separately. If both of us did the abhinaya together, Shri T K C felt the audience would be perpetually torn about who to look at and so this will make the experience less cohesive for them.

(TKC is `Rasikamani' T. K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar)

Since everyone felt his opinion was valid, it was decided that we would do the Nritta portion together and do the abhinaya separately.

A Singer sewing machine, an assortment of fabric pieces, borders with zari, books with varying designs all started accumulating upstairs at Kalki Gardens and they also arranged for a tailor to stay in house. We can never forget Ananthanarayanan (Sadasivam’s nephew-in-law) who toiled night and day to resolve the multiple logistics around getting the costumes ready on time and with quality.

Given the additional criteria, that the costume should adorn us like a sari but also have a pajama, the tailor painstakingly first tried the pattern on paper, then on throw away cloth that we used to call “ceeti”. Eventually, he made it out of a green satin cloth with a gold zari. Radha and I loved its soft feel to the touch. However, when Sadavisam and MS saw it, they vetoed it, saying “ It is too bright and shiny .. It is not nice ..” Then, MS brought out a beautiful blue and gold sari that she had worn in Meera and gave it to the tailor. The tailor was so reluctant to cut that resplendent tissue sari.

Once we tried out the costumes that were stitched with this sari, they were approved. Jewels were scrutinized carefully, next. We would be wearing the borrowed Manga Malai (necklace with mango like patterns) through the Varnam; for the abhinaya pieces, we would wear the necklace with a pendant anchored by a long string of pearls; a garland of flowers was the innovation for the song Aduvome Pallu Paduvome.

The program booklet was also very creatively done. Every page had the details about one song along with a picture with the pose for that song. The tiny booklet was stitched together by a string with two anklet bells. It also had pictures of our teacher Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai and MS.

Thirupugazh Mani T M Krishnaswami Iyer was invited to be the Chief Guest for the Arangetram. When the first bell rang, the screen was opened and a special backdrop with the picture of Nandi was revealed. There was a slight delay in the arrival of the Chief Guest. Some of the audience who lost their patience in a matter of just 10 minutes started singing the song ‘Satre vilagi irum pillaai sannidhanam marikudaam’ – pleading with Nandi to not block the view ! This caused a lot of rustle and bustle amongst the audience.

A lot of amazement was expressed about the teeming crowds for the event. We were just children. We thought the overflowing audience had to come to see our dance! We only realized later that the catalyst was the padam singing by MS.

Our dancing to the patriotic song Bharathiyaar’s Aduvome Pallu Paduvome, wearing the garland of flowers diagonally across our shoulder, was greeted with tremendous cheering by the audience. First, the intensity of feeling expressed in the song, remember it was before we got Independence. Then it was the attractive tune, the singer’s breathtaking voice, the dance choreography all contributed to the enthusiastic reception for that song. They applauded for each line, culminating in a thrilling finale imploring freedom and independence. Dancing to a patriotic song was not only a novelty but something that was entirely befitting those times.

Kalki’s composition of Malai Pozhuthinile was also a novel experience for the audience. This was also set to music by S V Venkatraman. I played the role of the nayika while Radha played the role of Lord Muruga. In those days that was a new technique. We danced with our usual costumes; the varying roles were apparent in our abhinaya. It set a new trend.

When Radha gave an impish smile for the lines

Pulli Mayil Veeran Punnagai Thaan Purindaan

(Astride a peacock, the valiant one gave a beautiful smile)

the audience laughed along happily.

A Bharatanatyam arangetram. The dancers who performed for around 3 hours were around twelve years old. Traditional yet innovative costumes, understated makeup, good dance, incredible music, carefully selected repertoire, Mylai Sangeetha sabha’s great rasikas. All these factors contributed to the event’s success.

A little later, the Bharathi Vizha occurred at Ettayapuram. Shri T KC requested that there should be a dance recital by Anandhi-Radha at that event. There was also a music concert by MS. My father selected a new song by the poet for Bharathi Vizha.

‘Vetri Ettu Dikku Metta Kottu Murase’

(To herald the imminent victory in 8 directions, beat the drums with joy)

and S V Venkatraman tuned it to raga mohanam,

After a shortened alarippu and varnam, when MS started singing Aduvome, the rousing cheers seemed to reach the heavens. And the victorious claps from the audience truly seemed to reach all 8 directions ! The dancing to such patriotic songs was appreciated by many of the elders of those times. These 2 songs, set to the same tunes, danced by Kumari Kamala in AVM’s movie Naam Iruvar became well known throughout the land and for the movie, the songs were sung by Smt D.K.Pattammaal.

Then the Kambar Vizha took place in Chennai at Rajaji Hall. Shri T KC painstakingly selected songs for this occasion, one of them being “ Thol Kandaar Thole Kandaar” This describes how the young girls in Mithila were smitten by how handsome Lord Rama was. This simple pretext helped underscore the element of bhakti as well. This song was also tuned by S V Venkatraman. Before the dance commenced, Shri T K C explained the meaning of the song in his inimitable style.

It became tedious to keep doing the same varnam ‘Karunai Seididalada’. Sadasivam requested Shri Papanasam Sivan to compose a Pada Varnam in Tamil. Sivan composed Nee Inda Mayam in Dhanyasi and sent it together with the svara and tala notations. Though it was Sringara Rasa, it was still suitable for us and was full of wonderful bhavam. Ramiah Pillai strung together Azvaar Pasurams like varnams and taught them to us. Like this, Tamil compositions were prominent in our recitals. In those days, these were all very new concepts. Their intent was to help ensure a positive reception for the art of Bharatanatyam in Tamilnadu and to enable it to be easily understood. We also danced to Madhura Nagarilo, and the sabdam Sarasijakshulu .

Kalki Krishnamurthy, Rasikamani T K C, MS, Sadasivam joined together to do a devoted service to the art of Bharatanatyam. When Kalki started writing Sivakamiyin Sapatham, Bharatanatyam became even more popular. We cannot deny or forget the fact that they were responsible for the clinking of ankle bells and the melody of Tamil songs all across Tamilnadu. Via their words, deeds and actions, their writing and musical talents, they helped bring about a renaissance. The fact that we participated in this revival even with out realizing it is still amazing to ponder !


Here is a relevant passage written by Gowri Ramnarayan (Anandhi Ramachandran’s daughter) in her book MS & Radha : A Saga of Steadfast Devotion

“ The 1940s also saw MS in a new role. Ten year old Radha and Kalki’s 12 year old daughter Anandhi were being groomed in Bharatanatyam by Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. The girls had the privilege of MS singing at their rehearsals and performances. The girls’ enjoyment doubled when MS donned her red dance costume and joined them as they practiced adavus. Having watched Balasaraswathi from her youth, MS instinctively knew abhinaya. Ramiah Pillai would teach the gestures for the padams and say “ Ask Amma to show you how to do the abhinaya. “

Bharatanatyam revivalist E Krishna Iyer reviewed their recital in the Free Press Journal, acknowledging the talent of the young dancers, their guru’s fine choreography and training skills, and paid tribute to the aesthetic sense, involvement and maturity of MS that he discerned in every aspect of the presentation. The young dancers acknowledged the truth of this deduction on the part of the writer. Radha recalled : “ Amma did everything for us backstage, helped us don costumes, jewelry, flowers, and plaited our hair with kunjalam. Then she went onstage and sang for us. “

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Link to a rare Dikshithar kriti sung by MS

Since March is the birth month of Muthuswami Dikshithar, here is a link to a rare Dikshithar Kriti sung by MS.

Mahalakshmi Karunaarasa Lahari" in raga Madhava Manohari.

She was accompanied by:
Smt Radha Viswanathan vocally
Sri Kandadevi S.Azhagiriswami on the violin
Sri T.K.Murthy on the mridangam
Sri V.Nagarajan on the kanjira
Sri T.H.Vinayakaram on the ghatam

Saturday, February 4, 2012

MS' Piano

The piano that MS played

An article in The Hindu where "Pianist Anil Srinivasan writes about discovering the instrument on which the legendary musician played many a times… "

"A few weeks ago, I was taken to the instrument room at Kalakshetra by its director and my friend, Leela Samson. As the doors were thrown open, I was arrested by the sight of a beautiful baby grand piano. ...
As I look ahead to the concert on July 24 (2009) at Kalakshetra to celebrate MS and her piano, I feel nervous and exhilarated. It is a milestone in my life. "

MSS - Multi-lingual Invocation - Link to Youtube upload by paramparaa1916
the invocation on the eve of the inauguration of the 6th Afro-Asian Congress of Ophthalmology, held in Madras, on 04th January, 1976. Since the delegates to the conference were from different nations, this invocation was rendered in 5 languages."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Links to MSS Concert at the Tyagaraja Aradhana Celebrations in 1980

"Links to a recording of Smt M.S.Subbulakshmi's recital at the Tyagaraja Aradhana Celebrations in Thiruvaiyaaru on 7th January, 1980.

She was accompanied by:
Smt Radha Viswanathan - Vocal Support
Sri Kandadevi S.Azhagiriswami - Violin
Sri T.K.Murthy - Mridangam
Sri V.Nagarajan - Kanjira
Sri T.H.Vinayakaram - Ghatam"

M S Subbulakshmi - Nenendu Vedukudura - Karnataka Behag

M S Subbulakshmi - Tulasi Dalamulache - Mayamalavagaula

M S Subbulakshmi - Nidhichaala Sukhama - Kalyani

M S Subbulakshmi - Ksheera Sagara Shayana - Devagandhari

M S Subbulakshmi - Seetamma Mayamma - Vasanta