Madurageetham 2012 was a celebration of classical music with a contemporary touch

Arvind Kumar Sankar is confident that Indian classical music will never lose its relevance to pop, rock and all kinds of fusion music of modern times. That is because Carnatic music is constantly evolving. It is this belief that makes him return a unique festival to his home town every year.

The Madurageetham, which evolved five seasons ago to take classical music to laymen and students and in the process nurture “intangible heritage”, remembers the Queen of Music, M.S.Subbulakshmi, and celebrates her birth week in her birthplace.

It is not easy to get artists at this time of the year as many of them are busy travelling within and outside the country for performances. Finances are yet another constraint. But since 2008, Arvind Sankar as the convener of INTACH Madurai has provided the people of this city an opportunity to listen to some wonderful renditions by singers and musicians from the Southern States. They converge in the Temple Town every September for a musical tribute to the legendary Carnatic singer.

“It works both ways,” says Arvind, “because classical music has a spirit of its own and takes on various forms attracting lovers of all types of music. Though not much can be added to what people already know about MS, yet we get to learn something new about her each year.”

Unforgettable

People can never forget MS’s songs. That was evident at the venue packed with middle and high school students, who could well be the age of MS’s great-grandchildren. They fell silent in reverence when Embar Kannan played on his violin the two famous songs, Vaishnava Janato and Giridhar Gopala. The musician then took the Lakshmi School students across time and space in “The cultural crossroads”. The two-hour presentation saw a medley of classical music from Ireland, China, Spain, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Africa and Arabia. The students answered correctly the artiste’s questions about which country the music belonged to and also which Carnatic raga the piece was based on.

Arvind said, “Ours is not a typical concert. It is far more interactive. Our aim is to connect with and motivate the youngsters. It should inspire them to learn and be innovative.” In the last five years, the number of schools with INTACH Heritage Clubs actively participating in the festival has increased from four to 30. “It reflects the power of music and the interest of this generation.”

The last four years saw over 30 innovative programmes by Aruna Sairam, Vijaysiva, T.M.Krishna, Lakshmi Vishvanathan, Anitha Ratnam, Anil Srinivasan and other prominent performers, who collectively and effectively brought alive MS’s songs. This year’s programme from September 15 to 19 also presented a series of concerts by eminent maestros starting with Dr.Balamuralikrishna on the opening day.

On her birthday (September 16), as they do every year, the Heritage Club school children went to M.S.Subbulakshmi’s house on Hanumantharayar Koil Street and sang some of her well-known songs there.

Finalists of Vijay TV’s Supersinger programme Raginisri and Madhu Ayer presented a semi classical lec-dem titled ‘RaagaLahari’. Starting with an invocation to Ganesha, they moved on to Sreeman Narayana and Devaadideva, rendered in Sinduramakriya raga. They continued with a Keeravani aalap and altered the fantastic adukku kalpana swaras as though in competition. Phenomenal voices, sharp minds and excellent chemistry between the two made the evening superb. The grand finale of the festival was at the foothills of Azhagar Koil on Wednesday evening where nearly 1,000 students of Mahatma Residential Schools assembled to listen to Rithwik Raja giving an introduction to, what he described as “undiluted classical vocal”. Titled ‘Saroja Dalanetri’, the singer started with an invocation to Dakshinamoorthy (Om naman pranavarthaaya) and moved on to the forgotten Valachchi Vaachchi by Patnam Subramania Ayer. The song flowed beautifully from Kedaaram to Kalyani raga. Next was the evergreen Vaathapi Ganapathim followed by a brisk breather Bogindrasayinam and the solid Shankarabaranam. Kuraiondram Iillai made the final moments memorable as the audience sang along.

“Artists have an interesting life and the experience of witnessing their art is enriching,” says Arvind. The response has triggered in him the dream of making Madurageetham a national festival.

Madurai was the first city to host this festival. Now awareness is growing and many more similar MS festivals are being held in other cities. Arvind is hopeful of attracting people from all over the country to the festival in the coming years. “Like MS’s voice finds a permanent place in people’s lives, our event too will be the talking point in future.”

The never-to-fade brand M.S.Subbulakshmi

Is the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1998.

The first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, Asia's highest civilian award, in 1974.

The first woman to be honoured with the title Sangeetha Kalanidhi, considered the Nobel of Carnatic music, by the Music Academy in 1968.

Her first recording was released at the age of 10 and she made her first public performance at the age of 16. An expert in devotional musical forms in different languages including Tamil, Kannada, Sanskrit and Malayalam, MS held concerts at Carnegie Hall, New York and the UN General Assembly on UN day in 1966.

She was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1954, Padma Vibhushan in 1975, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1956, the Kalidasa Samman in 1988, the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1990. There were very few awards that were not bestowed on Subbulakshmi.

Subbulakshmi’s most unique contribution is her series of recordings of purely spiritual verses and chants of the Venkatesa Suprabhatam, Bhajagovindam of Adi Sankara, and Vishnu Sahasranamam.

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Tribute to M. S. Subbulakshmi September 27, 2012