Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi

Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi

Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi was a Tamil Nadu-based Indian Carnatic singer. She was the first musician to be honoured with India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. She is the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, which she received in 1974 with the following citation: “Srimati M. S. Subbulakshmi is widely regarded as the leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in South India’s Carnatic tradition. In 1966, she was the first Indian to perform in the United Nations General Assembly.”

Childhood and Upbringing

Subbulakshmi grew up in a setting that was particularly conducive to musical study, as her mother, a devadasi, was a music exponent and a regular stage performer. Regular encounters with Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar, and Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar moulded her musical interests as well.

At the age of eleven, Subbulakshmi had her first public performance in the 100 pillar hall inside the Rockfort Temple, Tiruchirappalli, alongside Mysore Chowdiah on the violin and Dakshinamurthy Pillai on the mridangam. F. G. Natesa Iyer, the head of the Indian National Congress in Tiruchirappalli, organised the event.

Ventures In The Music Industry

M.S. Subbulakshmi began her musical study in Carnatic classical music with her mother Shanmukhavadivu and then in Hindustani classical music with Pandit Narayan Rao Vyas. Subbulakshmi made her debut recording when she was ten years old.

When she was 13 years old, Subbulakshmi gave her debut performance at the famed Madras Music Academy. Bhajans were sung during the show (Hindu hymns). The academy was known for its stringent selection process, and they defied convention by inviting a young girl to perform as a lead role. Her performance was praised as mesmerising, and critics dubbed her a musical genius. Subbulakshmi rose to prominence as one of the premier Carnatic vocalists soon after her initial performances.

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