Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, also called M.S. Subbulakshmi or M.S.S./M.S. Maami, was a distinguished Carnatic singer. The first musician to be awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, was M.S.S.
M.S. Subbulakshmi was born in the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Her love for Hindustani Carnatic music was manifest at the tender age of 10 when she released her first recording, after years of rigorous training. Her trainer for Carnatic vocals was Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and she received training in Hindustani Classical music from Pandit Narayan Rao Vyas. This genius vocalit made her debut at the age of 17 in the Madras Music Academy. She has performed in diverse forms of music several languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, and even Sanskrit.
m.S. even ventured into films and carved out a nice for herself. Her best performance was in the film Meera, as the devout Meera. Under the music direction of Dilip Kumar Roy, M.S. rendered her melodious Meera Bhajans that have become timeless classics. However, after the success of this film, M.S. stoppedacting and devoted all her attention to concert music.
M.S. got married to Sadasivam, a freedom-fighter and a disciple or Rajaji, in 1940. unfortunately they had no issues. Sadasivam had children from a previous marriage whom M.S. looked upon as her own. The eldest daughter, Radha, often san with M.S. in her concerts, while the son Viji accompanied them with the sitar.the children lovingly referred to her as Amu Patti.
Subbulakshmi’s renown spread far and wide, as she journeyed extensively through London, New York, Canada and the Far East as the cultural ambassador of India. She has performed in eminent places like tbe Carnegie Hall, New York; the UN General Assembly on UN day in 1966, the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1982; and at the Festival of India in Moscow in 1987.
One of her immensely popular records is the Bhajogovindam that comprises 30 verses composed by the poet Sankara in the praise of Lord Krishna, which are melodious as well as rich in philosophical essence.
She was awarded the Padma Bhusan in 1958. In 1968 she became the first recipient of the honored title Sangeetha Kalanidhi, and also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1974 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1974. The Kalidasa Sanman came in 1988, and the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integrtion in 1990. The highest honor Bharat Ratna was awarded in 1998. She was also hailed as the court singer of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.
This Tapaswini (the Renunciate) as Lata Mangeshkar calls her, donated most of her prize moneys for charitable causes.
After the death of her husband in 1997, she refrained from public performances. Pneumonia and cardiac troubles claimed her life on December 11, 2004, in Chennai.