The Indian Classical Music mainly has two sub genres viz., Hindustani and Carnatic. While Hindustani is prevalent in northern India, Carnatic music is prevalent in the four major states of south India namely, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Classical music in India is said to be devised from the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. In India Carnatic music has evolved over the centuries and people especially South Indians have developed a special liking towards it.
Hailing from a Tamil Brahmin family myself I know the importance of Carnatic music in the life of my family. My parents listen to Carnatic music by various singers like P. Susheela and M.S. Subbulakshmi on an everyday basis. I still remember that as a kid I used to wake up to songs like “Kausalya Supraja Rama” sung by ‘The Great M.S. Subbulakshmi’. Being a music lover who was brought up in north India, I couldn’t understand the meanings of the words sung by these Carnatic singers but I still liked their songs as they were soothing, peaceful and had a godly feeling in them.
M.S. Subbulakshmi was born in Madurai in a Tamil Brahmin family. She developed an interest in music because of her mother who was a Veena (a musical instrument like the one goddess Saraswati holds) player herself. As she was brought up in a musical environment she used to hum and sing songs along with her mother. Her family lived near the Madurai Meenakshi Temple from where she heard the prayers and recited them along with the Nadaswaram(another musical instrument). She soon started learning Carnatic music at a young age from Madurai Srinivasa Iyengar, her first guru.
She continued to sing even after her guru passed away. Her voice was exquisite – a result of long hours of dedication and practice. Her first music track released when she was 10 years old. She was called Kunjamma by her close ones. Her first live performance was in Madras Music Academy when she was just 13 years old. She was very much appreciated for her performance and she earned a lot of fans after that. Soon she started giving individual performances and went on to sing at concerts too. She rose to fame during the 50’s and 60’s. She represented India as the India’s Cultural Ambassador and sung at various festivals and organizations like The United Nations.
She was a multi-talented personality. Apart from singing she also acted in a tamil films for a short span, Sevasadanam being her first movie. It was released in 1938 and was a critically acclaimed film. Later on she quit acting and focused completely on her music career. She has received a lot of appreciation and felicitation over the years. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said that he was a mere Prime Minister in front of a Queen, a Queen of Music and Sarojini Naidu called her ‘The Nightingale Of India’. She was the first civilian who was awarded with the highest civilian award ‘Bharat Ratna’ which she received from the President of India. Apart from this she has also received Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Ramon Magsaysay Award and many others. With these awards she received enormous prize money which she donated to the charity reflecting her humanitarian nature.
M.S. Subbulakshmi was an all-rounder. She perfected herself in her field of interest. She was a singer, an actor and a philanthropist. Over the course of her life she received many more honors than any other artists of her time. She was and will continue to be an idol of the young generation who are aspiring to be singers in the future. She will always remain in the hearts of people and will continue to soothe them with her mesmerizing voice.