Koyel Madurai ki gunj
Born on 16th September 1916
Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, an Indian Carnatic Singer, with her melodious voice, had auspiciously induced the world from 1916-2004. She was the first woman musician to receive Bharat Ratna and the first Indian to touch the pinnacle of Ramon Magsaysay award, whose nickname is “Asia’s Nobel Prize”.
Clept Kunjamma at birth in September 16, 1916, in Madurai, her lineage of a sculpted singer ran down from her grandmother, a violin player, and both the parents. Her father was a veena player, and her mother was a sterling stage performer. Unlike other playful children, Subbulakshmi dedicated herself to the training in Carnatic and Hindustani music from a very early age. Subbulakshmi was gifted with her first recording at the age of ten, and when she turned eleven, she attained her first stage performance inside the Rockfort Temple, Tiruchirappalli, organized by the INC leader, F.G.Natesa Iyer.
Thus, her career in the boundless sphere of singing took a leap from Madurai to Madras (Chennai). She stepped into the acclaimed Madras Music Academy as a performer in 1929, and broke the barriers of discrimination by being the key performer as a girl. With that outstanding performance of hers, she received warmth and admiration of the public, and in such a short time, became one of the leading songstresses.
The nightingale in between her performance. Image source: Times of India.
She grasped the opportunities of solo concerts by the age of seventeen and bagged the major performances in the Academy. Now, she cut the threads of the Madras borders and took her soothing flow of rhythms to the foreign lands (London, Canada, New York) as the Indian Cultural Ambassador.
Her milestones in the list of her grand performances were:
At the UN Assembly in the UN Day (New York) in 1966.
Royal Albert Hall in London, 1982.
Festival of India in Moscow, 1987.
As Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan designated her, Suswaralakshmi, our goddess of the perfect note returned to India and performed 36 concerts for Sree Ramaseva Mandali Bengaluru and many other songs in the Rameswaram Temple, accompanied by SN Venkata Rao, the Advisor of the Indian Railways.
Aside from Bharat Ratna (1998), the Queen of melody secured Padma Bhushan (1954), Sangeetha Kalanidhi (1968), Padma Vibhushan (1975), Kalidasa Samman (1988), and Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration (1990).
Even the colour of the Kancheepuram Saree was named MS Blue in the honour of her. A postage stamp was issued in her commemoration in 2005 in India. UN too, to mark the date of the birth outstanding musical personality and her exceptional performance at the UN stage, issued a stamp. All the cash rewards she had achieved alongwith all these prestigious awards, were sent to the charity organizations.
Apart from her stance at singing, our Carnatic apsara had also worked in various films. One of the popular ones was her first, Sevasadanam (1938), which was a critical, commercial hit. She took the role of a male character, Narada in Savitri (1941), to raise the fund for her husband, Kalki Sadasivam’s Tamil weekly.
That’s why her beloved husband’s death took a toll on her and she chose retirement from this charismatic, passionate world of music. Our ‘Nightingale of India’ passed away on December 11, 2004, at Chennai. Her charming voice keeps on living eternally as an inspiration to many modern day’s artists and singers.
This was story was first published on This Day.app.