Book Review – MS: A Life in Music

This is just a brilliant book by TJS George. It is a bio of MS. Subbulaxmi but is  much more than just a personal sketch.

It has an amazing introduction & discussion and Carnatic music and social life in TN. The way music was shaped in TN and became such an important part of their lives is quite a story. The various caste and community equations and how MS overcame all this, is really a fascinating read. Then there is politics as well.

For MS music was a therapy of the soul. In music, she found strength, solace and stimulation. By giving her music everything she had, she received in return a blissfulness nothing else could give her.

To know how music transcends all barriers, all one has to do is to listen to M. S. Subbulakshmi sing. Her mellifluous voice, her phenomenal range, her command over the nuances of classical music, her exquisite diction and, above all, her emotional and aesthetic appeal have held audiences worldwide spellbound. Her long and fascinating odyssey began in the South Indian temple town of Madurai and took her to various places including Madras, New York and London. Her music has attained universal dimensions. She has achieved icon status in the pantheon of Indian classical music, especially on the basis of her concerts for charitable causes. If her repertoire is legendary, so is her humility, despite having won the Magsaysay Award (1974) and the Bharat Ratna (1998).

This authoritative biography unravels the saga of one of India’s most revered and respected musicians, whose name has become synonymous with bhakti (devotion).

While narrating the fascinating story of MS, the author brings into sharp focus an entire gamut of related events, both historical and contemporary. For instance: how the arts in general and Carnatic music in particular developed over the centuries; the significance of the radio and the gramophone records in shaping the careers of several classical musicians; the role of Tamil cinema in popularizing classical music; the impact of the freedom struggle and the subsequent independence on MS’ career and profession; the role of her husband (T. Sadasivam) in deciding her life pattern; the interaction between MS and the North Indian ustads; and the current trends in ‘experimental’ music and their possible detrimental effect on the purity of Carnatic music.

Hugely recommended..

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