Madura Geetam 2011 proved to be a fitting tribute to the legendary musician, M.S. Subbulakshmi.

Madura Geetam 2011, as part of the INTACH's annual celebrations, organised in memory of M.S. Subbulakshmi, in Madurai, began with a lecture demonstration by nagaswaram maestro Sheik Mastan Sahib, student of Sheik Chinna Maulana Sahib. Interesting details about the nagaswaram were shared while he performed some of the masterpieces of M.S. This instrument, first mentioned in ‘Thiruvachagam' in the ninth century, is also known as nagaswaram, mangalavadyam, rajavadyam and nayanam. It is part of the Tamil temple culture, where it is used to play Ther mallari, Theertha mallari and Thaligai mallari. It also holds a special place in folk music. It was a different way of presenting the songs of M.S to the audience, particularly as the nagaswaram was accompanied by a forceful thavil.

Utsav's ‘Navasakti,' a nine-member all-woman team, showcased the next generation's interpretation of M.S. Subbulakshmi's music. The centre piece of this team was the excellent play on the key board. The other melodic instrument of this orchestra was the violin. While three young women lent percussive support on the mridangam, ghatam and the tabla, four others sang the popular songs such as ‘Rangapuravihara,' ‘Dolayam,' ‘Devi Neeye' and ‘Bhajare Yadunatham.' The singers made a novel attempt by using a western instrument.

Aravind Kumar elaborated on certain anecdotes from the life of M.S. as a preface to the kritis rendered by Nandini Anand and team. Nandini sang with traditional élan and she chose unique pieces such as ‘Sada Saranga Nayane,' composed by Yoga Narasimhar in Ranjani, ‘Nee Irangayenil' by Papanasam Sivan in Atana, Gopalakrishna Bharati's ‘Sabapathikku' in Abhogi and Neelakanta Sivan's ‘Sambo Mahadeva' in Bowli.

T.K. Padmanabhan on the violin and S. Ranganathan on the mridangam not only lent orchestral support but also shared their views on M.S. and the impact she had on the rasikas of her time, as a trendsetter in music as well as through her extraordinary presentation of it.

Unique attempt

The ‘Build-a-Rasika' workshop, conducted by Vijay Siva, was a unique and valuable attempt at initiating school children to basic concepts of music such as the divisions in a kriti, the different talas, alapana, sangati, manodharma, thani, tukkadas and the elements of the tillana. They were also told about the Trinity, their contributions and Mudras. He sang a wide range of kritis beginning with the Thodi varnam, ‘Era Napai,' moving on to ‘Guruvinagulama' in Hamsanadam with some brilliant chittaiswarams. He brought out M.S. Subbulakshmi's deep devotion to Sankaracharya by delivering his main song beginning with the saint's name in raga Sankarabharanam. His dulcet tone suited the abhang, ‘Bhaje Panduranga' and the Bengali song, ‘Amor Janmabhoomi.'

Vijay Siva subtly highlighted how Subbulakshmi sang in several languages all through her life. The organisers as well as the audience were left with the satisfaction that a fitting tribute has been paid to one of the most popular singers of Carnatic music.