The name ‘M.S. Subbulakshmi’ still spells magic. That was the reason why one saw such a huge gathering at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha main hall for a programme titled ‘Geetham Madhuram.’ Organised by Utsav Music in association with Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, this was a tribute to the legend to mark her 95th birthday. The all-women group presented a list of songs which bear the MS stamp all over.

Novelty in the form of a ‘remix’ has come to stay. Well, attempting that on film music is itself a bit incongruous; it sounded all the more out of place here. The presence of the keyboard was intended to lend a lighter touch to the programme. How would you feel listening to the interludes on the keyboard for ‘Ranga Pura Vihara’ in Brindavanasaranga or ‘Saroja Dalanetri’ (minus charanam and anupallavi respectively!) in Sankarabharanam? To put it mildly, it was odd.

There were no heavy weights and as mentioned in the introduction, the programme was more of ‘Carnatic music unplugged’ (whatever it means!) but ‘within the precincts of its grammar.’ There was no chorus because each vocalist has a voice of specific character. So the songs came out just one by one in turns.

Annamacharya compositions figured prominently (‘Manujudai Putti ’, ‘Dolayam’, ‘Sriman Narayana’, ‘Deva Devam’ to name a few) followed by Purandara Dasa kritis and Meera bhajans. Songs such as ‘Jagadodharana’ and ‘Katriniley Varum Geetham’ drew greater applause.

The participating vocalists were Subhashree Ramachandran, Saashwathi Prabhu, Saindhavi, Manasi Prasad and Krithika. Janani was both on vocal and keyboard. Nandini was on the violin, Lavanya on the mridangam, Ramya on the ghatam and Retnashri on the tabla.

While admiring the zest and sangfroid of these youngsters to choose numbers made famous by MS, one cannot but share a few thoughts on the legendary singer and her way of singing. Each one of the young singers has her own strength and some of them have established that also. Agreed, comparisons are unfair; but when some experiment like this is tried out, it unfortunately shows the chasm of difference between the great musician and the greenhorns, the main difference being the absence of ‘feel’ and ‘soul’. They could reproduce the music but not the quintessence.

The tribute once again emphasised the truth that none can create the aura of divinity like MS did. If that was the objective of the organizers and performers, they have proved it.