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On the occasion of the 86th birthday of Sangeeta Kalanidhi Dr. M S Subbulakshmi or simply MS, as this melody queen is known to the world, Carnatica brings you an article about her music, life and contribution.
Poet Kambar, while describing the beauty of Rama in his immortal epic Ramayana, faced bankruptcy of superlative words and gave vent to his despiar. If one finds a similar situation with the leaders and connoisseurs of music in describing the eminence and contribution of a lady musician, it would mostly be Dr. M S Subbulakshmi, the vocalist of excellence. Tamilnadu had cradled many women of eminence and everlasting repute headed by the poet-apostle, Avvayar and the southern counterpart of Meera, viz., Andal who has brought the ecstasies of Divine love through her Tiruppavai. To this category belongs another for the like of whom Shelly longed for, when he ‘panted for the music which is divine - passes into my heart and brain’. She is M S Subbulakshmi, the ‘Queen of Music’ as Pandit Nehru called her.

A single anecdote is sufficient to convey with spartan brevity the excellence of her music. While coming out of the theatre after the pres-show of Meera, the title role having been played by M S Subbulakshmi (or MSS as she is endearingly known the world over), Sri. T Vijayaragavachariar asked Sarojini Devi, the poetess, "Now do you surrender the title ‘Nightingale of India'?" Quick and sure was the gracious reply, "I have already done it." That was the reaction of such an eminent person! MSS shot into fame no sooner than she entered the world of music. She has the gift that radiates happiness. Her personal qualities even transcend her art. She floods the venues of her concerts with a melody that is warm, spiritual and chaste! (Neville Cardus modified)

MS in Meera

Her life:

Born as the daughter of a prominent musician, Shanmughavadivu, she had her training with her mother. True to the Tamil proverb that none need teach the fish to swim, MSS picked up the science and art and hit the headlines by her eighteenth year. In 1940, she married T Sadasivam her friend, philosopher and guide since then. There is no sabha worth its name, no place worth its mention and no function worth its remembrance that has not been graced by her presence, her music. The marriage brought her the association of R Krishnamurthy or Kalki, a great editor. Rajaji, the saintly statesman was soon attracted by the melody of MSS and there ensued a lasting patronage till his death. More important is the artiste’s respect and reverence to the great seer of Kanchi, the Paramacharya. This wonderful confluence of exceptional musical talents with journalistic eminence, political maturity and spiritual benediction fostered by a competent life-partner enabled MSS to play a part, the like of which few could think of or had enjoyed.

Her music and contribution:

Her radiant, silver-toned melody is unequalled. Her captivating clarity of expression, whether Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu or Hindustani, is so exceptionally chaste that the mood underlying each song would be established immediately and find its echo in the listener, thus establishing unique rapport and consensus ad idem among the composer, the vocalist and the listener. Her appearance is dignity, modesty, simplicity and grace all sitting in monument radiating cultural and spiritual fragrance, commanding respect. The letters "MSS" have come to represent Melodiuos Sugam Sangeet and convey at once the unique personality of the artiste and the quality of her music all her own.


Posted on September 17, 2002


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