Monday, December 11, 2006

The magical voice

Lakshmi Viswanathan writes in The Hindu,

A great voice is an unforgettable phenomenon of human experience. M.S. Subbulakshmi was gifted with such a voice. Millions have heard her singing and millions more will do so in the decades to come. Her voice does not merely represent Indian music at its best, but it also symbolises the truth in human endeavour.

We might all ask ourselves the question: what is our individual contribution to humanity. And we might find the answer elusive. For, perhaps, we might not have been conscious of doing something for the betterment of the world all our lives. Subbulakshmi was a perfect example of the individual who consciously contributed the one thing she knew best, to make this world a better place for all. And that was her music …

… What brought about that magic when she sang that made people forget themselves, forget even her, and reach out to that spiritual truth, however unattainable that may be to the ordinary mortal?

There is a saying in Tamil, which can be roughly translated as: Touched by the fragrance of the flower, even the chord used to string it together smells sweet. One can say that Subbulakshmi's music and personality made many lives "fragrant" by mere contact. She exuded a friendliness, humility and extraordinary strength that needed no words to elaborate.

… How does one celebrate the life of such a great artist and a greater human being? Is it enough to sing her songs or dance to them? Is it enough to speak of her in innumerable forums? Is writing about her, an adequate tribute? These questions come to my mind, when I am in deep thought.

I think it is important for thinkers and intellectuals to lead the way for making future generations realise the importance of great individuals who have shaped the cultural destiny of India.


1. The magic in her voice – Lakshmi Viswanathan

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fear of separation

Living legend Gangubai Hangal writes,

I was then a young girl. It was the Belgaum Congress of 1924 and the Mahatma was to grace the occasion. I was thrilled that I was going to sing before Gandhiji, but also scared stiff that I would be asked to clear all the plantain leaves after lunch, as I belonged to one of the lower castes. I sang. Gandhiji came up to me and blessed me. Pandit Sawai Gandharva was impressed too. On the one hand I was overjoyed by their appreciation, but on the other, I was paralyzed by the worst fears. I quietly walked up to my teacher and asked him if I had to sit separately for lunch and clear the leaves. He held me close, and said: "Nothing of the kind, don't worry..."

They were difficult times. But I am grateful to music in more than one way. It gave me a unique identity and pushed all other identities to the background.

From The Hindu, Suvarna Karnataka special issue, 2006