Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi (1916-2004) has been the queen of Indian classical music in the South Indian Classical style (Carnatic) in the modern times. From Mahatma Gandhi to the most common of the people have admired her voice, conditioned perfectly to render some of the great Indian works of devotional literature. Her ‘Suprabhatam‘ is like staple music in temples all over south India.
With her rock-solid technique, sure tone, deep spirituality and splendid emotional expression, M S Subbulakshmi was rightfully considered an Indian national treasure during her lifetime. Thanks to a legion of great recordings, her place among the great vocalists of the 20th century is assured.
She was born in 1916 in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, to a family of famous instrumentalists. While still quite young, she began Carnatic musical training with Madurai Srinivasa Iyer and briefly studied Hindustani music from Pandit Naryan Rao Vyas.
Surdas Bhajan – Maiya Mori Main Nahin Makhan : (Download)
Kabir Bhajan – Bhajo Re Bhaiya : (Download)
Surdas Bhajan – Bujhat Shyam Kaun Tu Gori : (Download)
She debuted as a soloist at 17, and with the full support of her husband Thiagarajan Sadavisam (whom she married in 1940), she began acting and performing in films. Her most famous film was 1945’s Meera, in which she portrayed the revered medieval poet-saint Meerabai and sang several popular Meera bhajans (Hindu devotional songs attributed to Meerabai). After the huge success of Meera, however, Subbulakshmi turned her career entirely away from films.
While she was an extremely popular performer throughout India, she did not appear abroad as often as other Indian artists of similar renown. However, she did appear at New York‘s Carnegie Hall in 1977 and at London‘s Royal Albert Hall in 1982, among other high profile venues.
Surdas Bhajan – He Govind He Gopal : (Download)
Bhajan – Yaad Avey Brindavan Ki : (Download)
An intensely devout person, Subbulakshmi specialized in singing kritis (religious songs) and such religious hymns as the Bhajagovindam, a series of praises for the lord Krishna written by the Sankaracharya, and the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam (a recitation of the 1000 names of the lord Vishnu).
Among her many awards were the Padma Bhushan in 1954 and the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1968, she was the first female artist to be awarded the latter title. Subbulakshmi was also named the Bharat Ratna (‘Jewel of India’, India’s highest civilian award) in 1998 by the president of India. After her husband’s death in 1997, Subbulakshmi withdrew from performing, and passed away in 2004.