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Ref  : Media report  : -The Hindu : - FRIDAY REVIEW » MUSIC

September 13, 2015

Updated: September 13, 2015 09:51 IST

All Members,

Respected family members of this great holy Nation.

Remembering M.S. Subbulakshmi on her centenary year which commences on September 16.

For Bengaluru, M.S. Subbulakshmi is not just remembered as an icon on stage, who attracted a huge audience, but also as a modest student ever ready to learn more. The reigning star of the 1960s, 70s and 80s is said to have approached stalwarts such as R.K. Srikantan and her own associate, Seethalakshmi Venkatesan, to learn Dasarapadas.

“When it came to getting Kannada pronunciation right, MS did not hesitate to visit Masti Venkatesh Iyengar for language corrections to help in her CD recording of Kannada poems and ‘padas’,” recalled Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan director H.N. Suresh.

Such was her simplicity that even when the Bhavans insisted on having a full-fledged concert of Dasarapadas sometime later, the queen of music wasn’t perturbed. She is said to have told Mr. Venkatachalam of Bhavans in the 1970s, “When Srikantan is there, why worry?” MS is said to have learnt a dozen ‘kritis’ in just a week’s time from Mr. Srikantan, including ‘Narayana Ninna Namada Smaraneya’ in Shuddha Dhanyasi that he had tuned.

Many of her Bengaluru visits were turned into learning phases for improving her kriti repertoire and Kannada. “Nothing stopped my grandmother from taking up a full-fledged Purandaradasa kriti concert at Hampi during the saint’s birth celebrations several years ago. From ‘ugabhogas’, ‘padas’ to ‘mangala-stotra’, it was a full-fledged concert of Kannada works,” recollects V. Shrinivasan, grandson of MS.

MS mostly accepted concerts at the Chamarajpet Ramaseva Mandali and the Gayana Samaja, and also donated most of her fee to the organisers. “Our mandali can boast of a 36-year association with MS, the longest in India that any organised festival banner could dream of. Such was her audience reception here that she could never leave the pandal without rendering requests such as ‘Daasana Madiko Yenna’, ‘Jagadodharana’ or ‘Maithrim Bhajatha’ and ‘Bhavayami Raghuramam,’ recalls S.N. Varadaraj, general secretary, Ramaseva Mandali, Chamarajpet.

Says musicologist S. Krishnamurthy, former employee of Akashvani and author of ‘Sunada Vinodini’, a biography on MS in Kannada, “I knew Subbulakshmi and Sadasivam through my grandfather Mysore Vasudevacharya, and my profession at AIR. Apart from several concerts in Mysuru, including the palace specials, MS visited Mysore Vasudevacharya for learning his ‘kritis’ directly from him. He not only taught her, but also sang with her.”

But, her visit to Mysore Vasudevacharya before she presented his celebrated composition ‘Brochevarevaru Ra’ in a Mysuru concert elicited a response from the famed composer that would have the world sit up and notice, says Mr. Krishnamurthy in his book. “I didn’t know my compositions were so delightful,” Mysore Vasudevacharya exclaimed after listening to MS.

MS amma was an embodiment of compassion: Radha Vishwanathan (81)

I was a shadow, who followed my mother on global stages for nearly six decades. Looking back, I feel blessed to have had MS amma taking care of me as she was an embodiment of compassion.

Apart from concerts, Amma would come here often as my husband, Vishwanathan, worked here for two years at Binny Mills. The tremendous responses received from the audience mirrored an affectionate equation between the city and her. She was passionate about point-shruti alignment and it is there in the piles of music notes that we have shared together.

My mother remained a student all her life. For the recording of ‘Vishnu Sahasranama’ and ‘Suprabhata’, MS insisted we go through some rigorous training that had us get trained by Vedic scholars that included the renowned Agnihotram Tatachari, for more than a year. It was recorded in 1963, a day before my son, Shrinivasan, was born. We learnt from Semmangudi, Musiri, Brinda-Muktha, K.V. Narayanaswamy, Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao, and Siddeshwari Devi in Hindustani, and bhajans from Dilip Kumar Roy.

And when Gandhiji insisted in 1947 that he wanted to hear only MS singing the Meera bhajan ‘Hari Tuma Haro’, she learnt it in a few days; had it recorded in the AIR studio; and had the tape sent to Delhi for Gandhiji, who said: “I would rather have MS speak than hear someone else sing.”

MS amma did not have an attachment towards money or jewels. During a concert, she donated the bangles that my sister Vijaya and I presented to her for my father’s 60th birthday, to the Prime Minister’s relief fund in 1963, post the Indo-China war.

The fragrance lingers

“Where do you source your mallige, sampige and jaaji flowers? They smell heavenly”, M.S. Subbulakshmi would often ask flower vendor S. Srinivas. She bought flowers only from this Jayanagar vendor during her frequent visits to Bengaluru. “The first time she came to my shop in the early1990s in a Benz with her relatives who lived in Jayanagar, I was struck by the diamonds flashing on her nose and ears. It was only later that people told me that she was a renowned singer called MS!” recalls the vendor, popularly known as Jayanagar Srinivas. From then on, Srinivas regularly supplied flowers to MS every time she visited Bengaluru. “Would you believe she even sent me tickets to her concert at Chowdiah Hall several times?” he says.

Bengaluru connect

The Bengaluru audience was one of her favourites, recalls daughter Radha Vishwanathan. “Once, when she was apologetic that the rainy weather had her throat playing truant to reach the upper octaves, somebody from the Ramaseva Mandali audience in Chamarajpet stood up and said, ‘Even your talk would be enough melody to our ears’,” recalls Radha.

Her respect for her fellow musicians was legendary. “My father, Vittal Rao, felt blessed to have played the tambura for MS nearly 25 times. He would be requested for tambura accompaniment in an inland letter posted by the Sadasivams much before the concert,” recalls Jagannath Rao, son of Vittal Rao.

The many tamburas that she owned

MS is said to have used five tamburas in all, each one for the varied tonal quality they offered. ‘Lakshmi’ and ‘Saraswati’ were the first two tamburas that Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer had personally named and gifted to MS in the 1940s. These tamburas were part of the concerts at the International Music Festival at Edinburgh in 1963; Carnegie Hall, New York; the U.N. General Assembly on United Nations Day in 1966; Royal Albert Hall, London in 1982; and the Festival of India in Moscow in 1987. While the four-stringed Miraj tambura was used in some of MS’s Meera bhajans, the rare six-stringed one, gifted by dancer Bala Saraswati’s family, was used for the recording of ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’. The Lakshmi, Saraswati and Miraj tamburas are in Bengaluru with her daughter, Radha’s family.


(As told to Ranjani Govind)


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MS Subbulakshmi in and as Meera ( Her title role of the Rajasthani saint-poetess Meera in the eponymous 1945 film gave her national prominence. This movie was re-made in Hindi in 1947.)


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