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.”
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Read the article originally published in the Hindu  : Moment of pride for all Indians 

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

Link to UN Website  with photos –“UN Day Concert in 1966”

“Madame M.S. Subbulakshmi, one of India’s most eminent musicians, gave a recital of Indian songs today in the General Assembly Hall, as part of a 1966 United Nations Day (24 October) celebrations.”

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 

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…”

Ragam Dheerasankarabaranam (29th Melakarta), commonly known as 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 …

Shri 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. He was to call her Gandaralakshmi

1. Indu mukhi Ata Tala Varnam, Composer Svati Tirunal


2. Sarajodalentri in Talam Adi, Composer Shyama Sastri (United Nations, 1966)

Accompanists:Radha Viswanathan – Vocal Support, V.V.Subrahmanyam – Violin,T.K. Murthy – Mridangam, V.Nagarajan – Kanjira, T.H.Vinayakaram – Ghatam


Kriti and Neraval at the line samagana vinodini gunadama shyamakrishnanute


3. Akshayalinga Vibho in Talam Mishra Chapu, Composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (RR Sabha 1960)
Accompanists : M.S.Gopalakrishnan – Violin


Kriti and Neraval at the line badarivana mula nayika sahita


4. Swara raga sudha in Talam Adi, Composer Thyagaraja

Neraval at the line muladharaja nada meruguta


5. Artha Piravi, Composer Manikkavachakar
Neraval at the line Vartaiyum pesi valai silamba vilaiyadi


6. Pogadiralo Ranga in Talam Ata, Composer Purandaradasa (Hampi 1964)
Neraval at the line sura munigalu tamma


7. Navaratri Kriti – Devi JagajJanani in Talam Adi, Composer Swati Tirunal (Krishna Gana Sabha 1970)

8. Emi Neramu in Talam Adi, Composer Thyagaraja (MA 1960)

Accompanists:Radha Viswanathan – Vocal Support, Thiruvaalangaadu N.Sundaresa Aiyar – Violin, T.K.Murthy – Mridangam, Umayalpuram N.Kodhandarama Aiyar – Ghatam


Kriti and Neraval at the line dIna bandhuvani devadevudani


9. Kailasa Kaladi followed by Sankaracharyam in Talam Adi, Composer Subbarama Dikshithar


Kriti and Neraval at the line parama jnanalatalavalam


10. Endukku peddala in Talam Adi, Composer Thyagaraja (Krishna Gana Sabha 1959)

Accompanists:Radha Viswanathan – Vocal Support, R.K.Venkatarama Shastri – Violin, V.Nagarajan – Mridangam, Umayalpuram N.Kodhandarama Aiyar – Ghatam


Kriti and Neraval at the line veda sastra purana tatvarthamu thelisi


11. Sri Dakshinamurte in Talam Mishra Jhampa, Composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (Chennai 1969)


12. Lokodharana Karanam Viruttam followed by Sri Chandrasekhara Yateendram in Talam




13. Sadasiva upasmahe in Talam Adi, Composer Muthuswami Dikshithar (Dikshithar Day, Music Academy 1970)
Accompanists:Radha Viswanathan – Vocal Support,Kandadevi Alagiriswamy – Violin, T.K. Murthy – Mridangam, V.Nagarajan – Kanjira, T.H.Vinayakaram – Ghatam

Neraval at the line vama deva vyasa sukadi vandita


14. Idhu Nalla Tarunam Thiruvarutpa (Tamil Isai Sangam, 1973)

Ragam Tanam Pallavi

1.RTP in Ragam Sankarabaranam  : Saravana bhava guru guha shanmukha saminathane

Chaturashra jati Rupaka tala (4-Kalai); Eduppu at 2/4ths (1/2) of the first beat; arudi karvai of 3/4ths

Concert  at Madras Music Academy on 27th Dec,1964
Accompanists : Sri Tiruvalangadu N. Sundaresa Iyer (Violin), T. K. Murthy (Mridangam), Umayalpuram N. Kodandarama Iyer (Ghatam)


2.RTP in Ragam Sankarabaranam : Dasharathe Karunapayonidhe Inakulatilaka

Adi (4-Kalai); Eduppu at 1/2 of the first beat; arudi karvai is 3/4ths of the beat
Concert at Madras Music Academy on Dec 25,1971
Accompanists: Radha Viswanathan – Vocal, Kandadevi S.Azhagiriswami – Violin, T.K.Murthy – Mridangam, V.Nagarajan – Khanjira, T.H.Vinayakaram – Ghatam

“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 :