Pages ago - Singing for Bapu, Jawaharlal and Paramacharya

M.S. Subbulakshmi. Photo: The Hindu Archives  

The music of Srimathi M.S. Subbulakshmi (1916-2004), “a gift of the Gods,” has been placed at the service of several noble causes and at the service of the nation during her long concert career. Wherever there is a call for raising funds for public institutions. M.S. has responded graciously. The latest special concert was at the Music Academy yesterday.

Mr. T. Sadasivam recalls in his jottings (extracts of which are published here) many memorable events in the career of Subbulakshmi and the tributes that artistes, politicians and celebrities have paid to her.

It was an afternoon in April 1944 when Rajaji paid us a visit. He had just then returned from Sevagram after seeing Bapu. In the course of our talk Rajaji told us that he had promised Bapu five benefit music recitals by my wife Subbulakshmi for the Kasturba Memorial Fund. I said his word to Bapu would be fulfilled. That may be called the origin of Subbulakshmi's benefit music recitals.

She has also recorded on a twenty-minute long playing gramaphone record in HMV the Venkatesa Suprabhatam, the royalty from which goes to the Veda Patasala run by the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam.

Deserving particular mention is the series of free recitals she gave at the annual music festival of Tamil Isai Sangam for thirteen consecutive years which considerably helped to strengthen that institution and raise it to its present stature.

All this apart, what Subbulakshmi treasures most is the blessings she received from Bapu: “Rajaji had told me everything about your good work in connection with Kasturba Memorial Fund by using your musical gifts. May God bless you.”

Gandhiji heard Subbulakshmi for the first time in 1941. Subbulakshmi and I were going to Calcutta from Bombay in connection with the picture ‘Savithri' in which Subbulakshmi was featured as Narada. We broke our journey at Nagpur to have the darshan of Gandhiji at Sevagram. We were sitting along with the other Ashramites to participate in the evening prayers. Evidently quite a few recognised Subbulakshmi and they must have apprised Gandhiji of Subbulakshmi's presence. I do not remember who actually asked Subbulakshmi to sing in the prayer. She sang a few Bhajans. I felt Gandhiji who heard Subbulakshmi for the first time was quite impressed with her devotional singing.

I think it was some time in September 1947 that there was a message from New Delhi through the AIR Madras asking me if Subbulakshmi could go to New Delhi to sing a few Bhajans for Bapu on the occasion of his birthday on 2nd October. I had to express with profound regret my inability due to some domestic difficulties. On the morning of 1st October we had a telephone message through AIR Madras from Srimathi Sucheta Kripalani who was then attending on Bapu in New Delhi. The message said that Bapu was very keen to hear “Hari Thuma Haro” a Meera Bhajan from Subbulakshmi. I asked AIR to inform Srimathi Sucheta that Subbulakshmi had neither learnt that piece nor set it to tune and I suggested that Bapu must listen to that particular piece from any other artiste in Delhi.

Later the same evening we had another message from Delhi to say that Bapu was very keen to hear "Hari Thuma Haro", rather spoken by Subbulakshmi than sung by others. That left us no choice. We went over to AIR studios and with the assistance of one or two friends well versed in music we had the piece set to tune.

It was long past midnight when Subbulakshmi recorded “Hari Thuma Haro”. The tape was taken by the morning plane to New Delhi by my nephew R. Ananthanarayanan and Bapu heard it on the evening of his birthday, 2nd October 1947. Little did we imagine that, that was going to be his last birthday and much less did we imagine that that favourite Bhajan of Mahatmaji which was sung for his birthday, was going to be played all over the country within less than four months for Bapuji's funeral.

Jawaharlalji has heard Subbulakshmi many times. My wife and I had the privilege of staying in the Prime Minister's house as his guests for nearly ten days in the year 1955 when we went to Delhi in connection with a music recital by Subbulakshmi in aid of the Kamala Nehru Memorial Hospital Fund. It is Subbulakshmi's greatest fortune that His Holiness Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham has heard her on many an occasion and conferred his boundless anugraha on her. Subbulakshmi considers that her music reached its consummation on the three or four Maha Shivaratri nights when she sang for hours on end before His Holiness during his Puja.

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Printable version | Jan 13, 2022 4:53:28 AM |

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