Eminent musicians paid tribute to M.S. Subbulakshmi during her birth week celebrations, held in Madurai, recently.

The Madurai chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for art and cultural heritage) organised a week-long festival celebrating M.S. Subbulakshmi's birth week. The attractive description, 'Jugalbandhi' drew a number of people to the first day of the fest titled, 'Andha Naalum Vandidadho.' Bindhu Malini from Kolkata sang the title song with perfect articulation and brought out the feeling that was the hallmark of Subbulakshmi's singing.

Vedant Bharadwaj strummed the guitar and sang the Hindi version, 'Yaad Aao.' His singing was casual, more in the style of light music. His pronounciation of 'lla' in 'naallum' and 'nna' in 'ganitha' were interchanged with the softer 'la', and 'na'. His pitch and rhythm need some fine tuning. Short alapanas were sung in both Carnatic and Hindustani styles in Behag by Bindhu Malini and Vedant respectively.

They sang numerous hits of Subbulakshmi including Dikshithar's 'Akilandeswari' (Dwijavanti), Sadasiva Brahmendrar's 'Bruhimukundeti' (Chenjuruti) and 'Malai Pozhudinile.'

Aruna Sairam began with 'Kousalya Supraja' in Suddha Saveri, that served as a preface to the musical version of the Ramayana by Swati Tirunal beginning 'Bhavayami' in ragamalika. Having proclaimed that M.S. was inimitable and that singing her hits was just one way of paying tribute to her genius, Aruna worked energetically on an alapana in Vachaspathi and breezed through 'Paratpara' by Papanasam Sivan.

Role model

"M.S. was a role model for Carnatic singers through her innovation. She motivated later singers to experiment with a variety of languages," said Aruna, which is perhaps why she sang the lokpriya abhang, 'Saavale' by Saint Tukaram in Marathi and the Rabindra Sangeet, 'Amor Janma bhoomi' in Bengali.

The other numbers that Aruna sang were Dikshitar's 'Rangapuravihara' in Brindavana Saranga, Purandaradasa's 'Narayana Ninna' in Sudha Dhanyasi and 'Kurai Onrum Illai' in Ragamalika, written by Rajaji.

Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and S.V. Ramani (ghatam) kept pace with her high energy phrases as well as they did with the slower creative ones. Their rhythmic dialogue during the thani was much appreciated.

V. Ragavendra Rao provided support on the violin.

Mala Chandrashekar, performed on the final day of the week-long festival which comprised events such as music, essay competitions, story-telling, by Anil Srinivasan, and an interactive evening with veteran dancer and biographer of M.S., Lakshmi Viswanathan.

Mala shared her experience of being under the supervision of the great singer in her initial concert days. She learnt to absorb the frequency of sruti, and understood the importance of shraddha or devotion under her tutelage. But above all, she valued the encouragement given to her by M.S. When she played Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar's Daru varnam 'Maathe,' R.Hemalatha accompanied her on the violin. Palladam Ravi on the mridangam played creatively and Tiruchi Murali on the ghatam was observant and operated in unison with the former.

Mala's 'Vatapi Ganapatim' in Hamsadhwani by Dikshitar and Swati Tirunal's 'Bhogeendra Shayinam' in Kuntalavarali were delightful and apart from 'Vachama Gocharame,' a Tyagaraja kriti in Kaikavasa, the other songs were familiar such as 'Vandadum Solai Thannil' by Kalki in Harikhambodi and Annamacharya's 'Bhavayami Gopalabalam' in Yamuna Kalyani. Mala concluded with the benediction in Sanskrit by Sri Sankaracharya in Misra Yaman, leaving the audience completely satisfied.