A quintessential ‘M.S.’ concert was recreated on her 116th birth anniversary at the uniquely designed auditorium (without electronic amplification) named after her, in the Asian College of Journalism campus, Chennai. Senior violinist R.K. Shriramkumar, who had accompanied M.S. Subbulakshmi at several concerts, shared his memories and experiences. Vocalist Amritha Murali sang a few compositions popularised by the illustrious musician.
The session opened with an invocation to Dakshinamurthy, quite like the way M.S. would begin her concerts. Annamacharya’s ‘Namo namo raghukula nayaka’ (Nattai) that followed set the tone for a grand evening.
Remembering her personality and musical approach, Shriramkumar said though music came to her naturally, M.S. never missed her daily sadakam, as she was not the one to take her voice for granted.
From M.S.’s repertoire
A composition in Yamuna Kalyani ‘Dhava vibho kaurunakara Madhava’, from M.S.’s repertoire, and a favourite of her husband T. Sadasivam, was presented by Amritha with a brief niraval at ‘Janana marana bhaya.’ Percussionists K. Arunprakash on the mridangam, N. Guruprasad on the ghatam, and Anirudh Athreya on the kanjira alternated with their subtle strokes throughout the song, finally joining to accentuate the ending line.
Shriramkumar and Amritha next demonstrated a few vocal exercises that M.S. followed in her daily practice routine. Pointing out how the late musician was particular about patantara (the way a composition is taught), Shriramkumar presented a line in ‘Sri Ganapathini’ (Sowrashtram) with a unique prayoga that M.S. had learnt from T. Brinda.
Though Tamil was her mother tongue, she learnt how to pronounce words in other languages when she had to render songs in them. She was also particular about knowing the meaning of the lyrics. Amritha presented the Thevaram ‘Siraiyarum’ (Suddha Saveri) in a way that linked a word from the previous line.
To throw light on M.S.’s well-structured and delightful raga alapanas, Amritha presented Kamboji, building around panchama region with long karvais and moving precisely to tara sthayi shadja (upper ‘sa’) along with Shriramkumar on the violin.
M.S. performed some challenging compositions such as the Melaragamalika of Mahavaidyanatha Sivan. “Parts of this tricky composition with ragas close to each other in every other line became a staple at her concerts. She sang two chakras every year at The Music Academy,” said Shriramkumar and the team presented the Bana chakra from the raga Mararanjani to Sankarabharanam.
Singing from a selection of niraval lines: ‘Eeduleni malayamaruthamuche’ from ‘Muripemu’ (Mukhari, Tyagaraja), ‘O jagajjanani’ from ‘Needu charana’ (Kalyani, Pallavi Gopalayyar) and ‘Viyadaadi bhoota kirane’ from ‘Kamalambike’ (Thodi, Muthuswami Dikshitar), the team showed how M.S. structured the niravals in slow, medium and fast-paced phrases according to the kritis and ragas.
The pallavi ‘Vara sangita layaananda pradam vande shubhadam’ composed by Shriramkumar in Purvikalyani was the highlight of the evening, Amritha briefly prefixed it with tanam and with swaras in elongated phrases to bring out the beauty of the raga.
Known for infusing bhakti into her music, M.S. became synonymous with Meera bhajans, particularly after she was featured in a film on the saint-poet. The team presented ‘Pyare darsan dijo aaj’.
Annamacharya’s compositions were also her forte and the composition ‘Enta maatramuna’ the first part set in Brindavani and the second in Mayamalavagowla garnered appreciation for the team. The concert ended with the evergreen ‘Maitreem bhajata’, a composition M.S. sang in benediction for world peace at the United Nations concert in 1966. During an interactive session with the audience after the concert, the team sang on request another popular M.S. song, ‘Kurai onrum illai’.
The reviewer writes on Carnatic music.