Witnessing the making of a musical legend

It was 81 years ago in 1933, when a 16-year-old M.S. Subbulakshmi moved from Madurai to the big city of Madras.

Madras city, up until then, unfamiliar with the young singer, witnessed her first public performance at a concert organised by the Indian Fine Arts Society on December 28, the same year.

Accompanied by T. Gururajappa on the violin and her mother on the veena, Subbulakshmi performed at Saundarya Mahal in George Town.

Despite receiving rave reviews and becoming a regular in the city’s concert circuit, earning a slot at the prestigious The Music Academy was not easy. M.S. had to prove herself before she could stake her claim to the Academy’s stage.

In 1934, M.S. enthusiastically participated in the theory sessions and lecture demonstrations during the Academy’s annual music conference. But, it was only in 1935 M.S. got an opportunity to showcase her talent at the Academy’s annual season.

The Hindu, on January 1, 1935, published a four-line listing of the concert in the ‘Engagements for tomorrow’ column on page 12 of the paper. It read, ‘5.30 p.m.–7.30 p.m. Sri Subbalakshmi of Madura – Vocal, Mr. Sankaranarayana Aiyer – Violin, Hamsa Damayanti – Mridangam…’

The performance proved to be a turning point for M.S., with even The Hindu’s ‘hard-to-please’ music critic K.V. Ramamchandran being impressed.

In a picture of the group of musicians who participated in the music conference, published days after the concert on January 3, 1935, one can spot the adolescent M.S. wedged innocuously between two female artistes.

At the time, the 18-year-old aspiring singer was probably oblivious to the fact that in the years to come, she would become one of the most celebrated cultural icons in the nation.

Therefore, being featured by The Music Academy during the Margazhi season, for the first time in 1935, may have seemed to the young girl, her biggest achievement yet, at that point of time.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 8:51:44 PM |

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