M.S Subbulakshmi is a name that is synonymous with the world of Carnatic music. This flawless singer whose voice had a divine power is the first singer in India to be presented with the Bharat Ratna, the highest award given to any civilian. Born on 16th September, 1916 in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, this singer had a family that had a musical background. Her full name was Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi and she was fondly known as M.S or M.S.S. Her mother tongue was Kannada. Read the life history of M S Subbalakshmi in this short biography.
M.S was introduced to Carnatic music at a very early age. She released
her first album at the mere age of 10! She received training in
classical carnatic music under the famous Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and
then learnt Hindustani classical music under Pundit Narayan Rao Vyas.
M.S gave her first public performance at Kumbakonam during Mahamaham
festival. Then M.S went to the Madras Music Academy and gave a stunning
performance at the age of 17. Apart from her mother tongue Kannada, M.S
sang in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Sanskrit, Bengali, Gujarati,
M.S also did her stint as an actress and one of the most memorable
films was Bhakta Meera (1945). The versatile singer sang all famous
Meera bhajans in her melodious voice and these bhajans are enjoyed by
people even today. Her other films include Sevasadanam, Savitri and
Meera (Tamil). She attained much acclaim and success in films, but they
did not appeal to her after some time. She quit films and continued to
give public performances and concerts.
In the year 1936, she met Sadasivam who was a freedom fighter. They
both got married after four years in 1940. Sadasivam already had
children from his last marriage and did not have any further children
with M.S. She treated his kids like they were her own and showered them
with love and affection. She was affectionately called "Amu Paati"
by the kids Radha, Viji and Thangam (Sadasivam's orphaned niece adopted
M S Subbulakshmi has performed in London (Royal Albert Hall), New York
(Carnegie Hall), Canada, Far East, Moscow, etc. These performances are
regarded among her best performances. She was applauded by not just
Indians, but foreigners as well. People who did not even understand the
language she was singing in said that she is a divine manifestation. Her
fan list included Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, among other elite
people. Mahatma Gandhi commented that he would rather hear Subbulakshmi
speak the songs rather than hear someone else sing it.
Some of her most famous works include Suprabhatam (Early Morning
Hymns), Bhajagovindam (composed by Adi Shankaracharya praising Lord
Krishna), Kurai Onrum Illai (composed by Rajagopalachari), Vishnu
Sahasranamam (1000 names of Lord Vishnu), Hanuman Chalisa (Prayers to
Lord Hanuman), etc. Any ardent fan of Carnatic classical music is sure
to have all these and much more works of M.S Subbulakshmi. Another
moving composition is the song Vaishnava Janato that can bring tears to
anybody. The way she sang, her devotion, her tone, her pitch, her
perfect pronunciation is inimitable and flawless. She has been a
recipient of innumerable awards. This great soul passed away on 11th
December 2004 in Chennai at the age of 88. The rich legacy of music that
she gave us will live forever.