M. S. Subbulakshmi (1916-2004)

We don’t mind sounding trite and repeating what you already know – that on December 11, 2004, one of India’s (one of the world’s, as well) greatest singers, M. S. Subbulakshmi passed away leaving behind an unfillable void as well as an astounding legacy of soul-stirring singing that touches the heart of anybody fortunate enough to hear her sing.

Yes, we are all indeed lucky to still have her sublime voice with us in recordings for aeons to come; and those of us who have heard her in live concerts should really consider ourselves to be luckier than the rest, for we, mere ordinary mortals, had the good fortune of being personally transported to a divine world by an immortal singer who suffused every note and every syllable of her songs with her devotion to the sublime and the divine.

Those of you unlucky not to have heard her till now, go and pick up anything she has sung – Vishnu Sahasranamam, Annamacharya’s krithis, whatever. Her repertoire spanned pure classical music, soulful bhajans and slokas from the scriptures. You will not regret it. Kurai Onrum Illai Kanna, Kurai Onrum Illai Govinda, she would conclude her concert and the audience would agree that “there could be no regrets” after listening to M. S. for she reaches and touches the depths of one’s soul with her unique style – grand, resonant, soulful, spontaneous and clear. Language, culture, race, religion – her singing transcends any such man-made barriers; it effects the very core of our being.

Her awe-inspiring singing apart, some rare qualities added to her legendary stature. Innumerable titles, awards, concerts all over the world, the reverence and adulation of millions, wealth – nothing affected her core simplicity and dedication. Naanati Baduku Naatakamu – as she soulfully sang one of Annamacharya’s compositoins.

Unlike most of us, the more she earned the more she gave away. All the proceeds from innumerable concerts and the sales proceeds of many of her recordings were straightaway donated to worthy causes. Unbelievably munificent, she ended up dependent on the generosity of others in her last years.

If only each of us could imbibe a fraction of her consummate passion and dedication in doing whatever we want to do!