On the occasion of M. S. Subbulakshmi’s 105th birthday, we pay tribute to the legendary musician, often lovingly referred to as the ‘Nightingale of Carnatic Music.’ Born on September 16, 1916, in the historic city of Madurai, she etched her name into the annals of music history as the first recipient of India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna. Today, we delve into the remarkable life and enduring legacy of this iconic figure.
Early Musical Influences
Subbulakshmi’s journey into the world of music was guided by the nurturing hands of her grandmother and mother. Although her initial exposure to music was a familial affair, she would later come to realize that her true calling lay in the realm of melodies. At the tender age of eleven, she made her debut on the public stage, accompanied by virtuosos Mysore Chowdiah on the violin and Dakshinamurthy Pillai on the mridangam, at the venerable Rockfort temple in Tiruchirapalli. However, her breakthrough moment arrived at the age of thirteen when she graced the stage of the Madras Music Academy in 1929. In that single performance, Subbulakshmi’s prodigious talent was unveiled, earning her unprecedented acclaim and recognition.
A Carnatic Music Luminary
M. S. Subbulakshmi’s contributions to Carnatic music transcended her own lifetime. Revered by scholars and aficionados as ‘the leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the Carnatic tradition of South India,’ her enchanting performances reached audiences not only within India but also across the globe.
During the 1960s, Subbulakshmi was invited to grace prestigious musical concerts, including the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland and the hallowed Carnegie Hall in New York. Her transcendent musical journey culminated in a performance at the Carnegie Hall in London, solidifying her status as a global musical icon.
Endorsements from Legends
Renowned figures such as the late Sri. Ravi Shankar, Mahatma Gandhi, Sadanand Menon, and Lata Mangeshkar held Subbulakshmi in the highest esteem. Mahatma Gandhi, as recounted by the late Sri. Ravi Shankar, famously declared that he preferred hearing Subbulakshmi recite lines over anyone else singing them.
Beyond Music: Silver Screen Stardom
Subbulakshmi’s talents extended beyond the realms of music; she also graced the silver screen with her presence. Her acting debut came in 1936 with the film ‘Sevasadanam.’ However, it was her portrayal of the titular character in ‘Meera’ (1945) that catapulted her to stardom. The film’s immense success led to its Hindi remake, further solidifying her standing as an iconic actress.
Beyond her musical and cinematic achievements, M. S. Subbulakshmi was celebrated for her philanthropic endeavors. Notably, she was the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, often considered Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Recognized for her contributions to humanity and charitable work, Subbulakshmi consistently donated prize money from competitions and performances to wellness programs and charitable causes.
The End of an Era
Tragically, a broken heart marked the conclusion of Subbulakshmi’s illustrious musical career. In her youth, she fled her mother’s house to evade an arranged marriage. In 1936, she crossed paths with Kalki Sadasivam, a man who would provide her with the encouragement and support she needed during that trying period. They were married in 1940. However, when Sadasivam passed away in 1997, Subbulakshmi withdrew from public performances.
M. S. Subbulakshmi breathed her last on December 11, 2004. Today, as we celebrate her 105th birthday, we honor her multifaceted contributions and enduring legacy, both within and beyond the realm of music.
![M. S. Subbulakshmi](image URL)
In conclusion, M. S. Subbulakshmi’s life and achievements are a testament to the power of music and the indomitable spirit of a true artist. Her influence continues to resonate across generations, and her legacy remains an inspiration to aspiring musicians and actors worldwide.