M. L. Vasanthakumari

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Madras Lalithangi Vasanthakumari
Native name மெட்ராஸ் லலிதாங்கி வசந்தகுமாரி
Born (1928-07-03)3 July 1928
Origin Madras, Madras Presidency, British India
Died 31 October 1990(1990-10-31) (aged 62)
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Genres Carnatic music – Indian Classical Music and Playback singing
Occupations Singer
Years active 1942–1990
Labels HMV, EMI, RPG, AVM Audio, Inreco, Vani, Amutham Inc, Doordarshan, Super Audio, Geethanjali, Kosmic Music, Charsur Digital Workshop etc.

Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari (Tamil: மெட்ராஸ் லலிதாங்கி வசந்தகுமாரி) (popularly referred to as MLV) (3 July 1928 – 31 October 1990), was a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. MLV and her contemporaries D. K. Pattammal and M. S. Subbulakshmi were popularly referred to as the "female trinity of Carnatic Music.[1] A prime disciple of the G. N. Balasubramaniam, she was the youngest among the established musicians of that era, and was the youngest female awardee of the Sangita Kalanidhi award[2]

As well as being a much sought-after playback singer for films, MLV popularised unfamiliar ragas and her Ragam Thanam Pallavis were considered cerebral.[3] Additionally, she popularised the compositions of Purandara Dasa (and other Dasas), and was responsible for popularising his compositions Baarokrishnayya, Innu daya barade, among others.[citation needed] Her most famous disciples include Srividya (her daughter), Sudha Raghunathan, A. Kanyakumari, Charumathi Ramachandran and Meena Subramanian[4]

Early life[edit]

MLV was born to a musical family. Her father, Kuthanur Ayya Swamy Iyer, was a noted musician while her mother, Lalithangi, was also a great musician. When Deshbandu Chitharanjan Das (1870–1925) died in 1925, Lalithangi came out with a beautiful song by way of tribute to his national spirit and patriotism. A rare gramophone record (made in England) of her glorious voice rendering this song is said to be in V.Sundaram's private possession.

MLV's school education was in Madras, in a convent, where all was set to pursue a medical career until the great Carnatic musician G. N. Balasubramaniam came into her life. He became her guru. In her own words: My parents had rendered yeomen service to Carnatic music. They were mainly instrumental in popularising the compositions of Purandara Dasa in South India. They were not keen that I should enter the music field and gave me general education. But in the musical atmosphere of my house, I had ample opportunity of practising vocal music. Once G N Balasubramaniam heard me sing and he prevailed upon my parents to place me under his tutelage. It was he who was responsible for the status I occupy in the music world today.

Learning Carnatic music[edit]

MLV was very privilleged to learn Carnatic music from G. N. Balasubramaniam (GNB). She was also GNB's first disciple. Indira Menon said that GNB was a self-taught artiste, his racy style sparkling with brigas and nuances never heard before, revealed a new range of colours on the musician's palette. The brisk tempo unleashed by his powerful and pliable voice found many admirers and imitators among the younger generations, though it raised many an eyebrow among the senior vidwans. Was his music according to Sampradaya (tradition) or not, was the question that was frequently asked?' To answer, GNB was a genius, so much so that what might have seemed like a deviation from tradition was acceptable from him though it might not have been so from a lesser artiste. His personality, bold innovations and technical virtuosity became an inspiration for an entire generation of musicians. After GNB, speed and briga-laden music became the vogue to the extent that to be true to one's self and to sing according to one's vocal capacity required a great deal of courage.

Performing and recording career[edit]

In 1940, her mother Lalithangi gave a resplendent musical recital in Simla. MLV was then only 12 years old and made her debut by accompanying her mother. Two years later, MLV gave a solo recital in Bangalore. She also cut her first 78 rpm disc which many music lovers of that period recall vividly because it created a sensation. From then on she progressed in geometrical progression as a platform artiste and by 1950 she had established herself as a front-ranker. A learned music critic has said that MLV brought the struggle of women in the world of music to a successful culmination. Her music had more male characteristics than that of any other female musician.

Her own musical style and genius[edit]

MLV imbibed much of GNB's style, but did not make a fetish of speed and struck out on her own and evolved an inimitable style.[4] Endowed with a fluid voice and rich imagination, the initials MLV could be an acronym for her Melody, Laya and Vidwat – the watchwords of her rare musical artistry that were an aural feast to both the lay and the cognoscenti.[4] Her leisurely, explorative and adventurous manner of handling ragas deserves special mention.[citation needed]

While MLV was known more for her cerebral style, rather than her emotional style, this was compensated by her rich and original manodharma. Similarly to GNB, she was a genius in her tricky, instantaneous brilliant manodharma. Indira Menon comments MLV did adopt her Guru's idea of a quick impressionistic sketch of the raga covering the two octaves at the start, but settled down to a reposeful elaboration, unfolding it gradually with her virtuosity in the form of BRIGA -CASCADES appearing only where necessary. She was careful not to carry to an excess what her versatile voice was capable of.

MLV's mastery over vocal techniques was comprehensive and complete. She could effortlessly render several difficult ragas, with her alapana and kalpana swaras suitably embellished with shruthi-bheda. Her listeners had the same ecstatic experience when she sang and more particularly when in a lightning manner she shifted gracefully from the melodic world of one raga in one pitch to another raga in another pitch. In this context one has to refer to raga combinations like Shanmukhapriya-Sankarabharanam, Bhairavi-Kamas, Abhogi-Valaji to illustrate this point.

In GNB's own words,"Vasanthi typifies real discipleship – she absorbs all, but presents her own glorious creations."[5]

Purandaradasa Tradition[edit]

Lalithangi, MLV's mother had a vast repertoire of Purandaradasa. She passed on this tradition to her daughter MLV. As a result, like T. Brinda who brought Kshetrayya Padams to the public platform and M. S. Subbalakshmi who brought Annamacharya kritis to the public arena, MLV popularised the Devaranamas of Purandaradasa.

Sindhubhairavi[edit]

She popularised the composition 'Kalyana Gopalam', composed by Narayana Teertha, in raga Sindhubhairavi. She also popularised the composition 'Venkatachala Nilayam' by Purandaradasa in the same raga. Hindustani maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was generous in his praise for her music. Sudha Ragunathan mentions, '`MLV Amma has told me that it was Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab who taught her the nuances of Sindhu Bhairavi in the Hindustani style."[3]

Ragam Thanam Pallavi[edit]

MLV's forte was Ragam Tanam Pallavi where she not only maintained the great tradition brought to the stage by D. K. Pattammal, but enriched it in her own unique way. A. Kanyakumari who had accompanied MLV on violin for almost two decades says, "MLV-akka had a sharp mind and good memory and I have never seen her practice a song or a ragam or for that matter a ragam-tanam-pallavi also before a concert." Sudha Ragunathan, a prime disciple of MLV, remarked that "In all my twelve years of learning under her, I had never seen Amma practising at home. But, to my great surprise, she would compose a Pallavi in the car on the way to the concert!"[3]

Playback Singing[edit]

By 1946, MLV was also a playback singer.[3] Her first big hit was in the 1951 film Manamagal, where she sang the song Ellam Inbamayam in Ragamalika, and Subramania Bharathiyar's evergreen composition, Chinnanchiru Kiliyae. In the 1960 film Raja Desingu, MLV also sang another Ragamalika, Parkadal Alaimele, which was well received, and later became popular in Bharatha Natyam recitals. In later years, MLV would also sing these song towards the end of her Carnatic music concerts, and today, many musicians often include them in their repertoire.[6]

MLV was also known for singing Ayya Sami in the 1951 film, Or Iravu. This song was based on the song Gore Gore from the film Samadhi, which was in turn based on the Latin American song Chico Chico from Puerto Rico, from the film Cuban Pete. In the 1952 film Thayullam, MLV sang Konjum Purave which was based on the famous Hindi song, Thandi Havayen.[6]

Other songs MLV sang included Adisayam Vanathu Arivumayam, Senthamarai Kannanae, Vanna Tamizh and Adum Arul Jothi in the films Vikramadithan, Vairamalai, Sornakili and respectively. Incidentally, each of these songs contained the raga Kalyani and were also well-received.[6]

MLV sang melodiously the Dasavatara song for Bhookailas like Munneeta Pavalinchu Nagasayana, while Kamala Kumari dancing in a classical way.[7]

Personality[edit]

As one of the top ranking platform artistes, MLV was noted for her charm, grace, warmth, self-restraint and humility. Her self-restraint as an artiste can be understood from her own words: Brigas in fast tempo should adhere to the sruthi and above all, true music must touch the listener's heart. MLV however maintained a philosophy: A concert is a daily test of the calibre of a musician. A slight lapse may let the musician down and a constant vigil is essential.

Accompanists[edit]

Mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer, in a rare gesture, accompanied her in concerts. MLV helped others including Mannargudi Easwaran, Srimushnam V. Raja Rao, Seerkazhi J. Skandaprasad, Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam, R. Ramesh, Karaikudi Krishnamurthy, G. Harishankar (kanjira) and more, establishing them by encouraging them and giving them opportunities to accompany her in concerts.

Family[edit]

MLV got married to Late Kalaimamani Vikatam R.Krishnamurthy in the year 1951. They had a son, K.Shankarraman and late K.Srividya (notable actress in Indian films).

Disciples[edit]

MLV taught her daughter K.Srividya, who at the age of 10 was ready to perform and sang very much like MLV. Srividya however, wanted to pursue a career in the film industry, and went on to become a notable actress in Indian films.

MLV trained several other students, and many of them are the front-ranking musicians today. Some of the notable musicians who have studied under MLV include Sudha Ragunathan, A. Kanyakumari, Trichur V. Ramachandran, Yogam Santhanam, Charumathi Ramachandran, Vanaja Narayanan, T. M. Prabhavathi, Meena Subramaniam, Jayanthi Sridharan, Jayanthi Mohan, Rose Muralikrishnan and Bama Visveswaran. She also taught music to children at the Rishi Valley School started by Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Saraswathy Srinivasan is the first disciple of MLV till the late 1960s. After marriage also Saraswathy Srinivasan jointly with MLV gave some concerts.[citation needed]

Awards and titles[edit]

In 1976, MLV was honoured with a doctorate degree from Mysore University for her work with regards to Purandaradasa's contributions to music. MLV also received the third highest civilian honour from the Indian Government, "Padma Bhushan". In 1977, at age 49, MLV became the youngest woman to earn the award and title in Carnatic music, Sangita Kalanidhi. She also received the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award given by The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai in 1987.

MLV was a front ranking artiste for more than 50 years. She died in 1990 at the age of 63. Beauty and sublimity were the cardinal characteristics of her music.

Playback Singer[edit]

She was a much sought after playback singer in the 1950s till the mid 1960s. She worked under C. R. Subburaman, S. M. Subbaiah Naidu, G. Ramanathan, S. Dakshinamurthi, K. V. Mahadevan, Vedha, Chittor V. Nagaiah, Pendyala Nageshwara Rao, T. Chalapathi Rao, Viswanathan Ramamoorthy, S. Rajeswara Rao, R. Sudharsanam, R. Govardhanam, T. R. Papa, S. V. Venkatraman, Kunnakudi Venkatrama Iyer, G. Aswathama, T. A. Kalyanam, M. S. Gnanamani, C. N. Pandurangan, C. S. Jayaraman, G. Govindarajulu Naidu, K. G. Murthy and Ghantasala.

Year Film Language Song Music
1948 Raja Mukthi Tamil * kulakkodi thazhaikka
* ArArO nI ArArO
* ingum angum engum inbamE (with M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar)
* enna Anandham (with M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar)
* sandhOshamAi anbar varuvAradi (with P. Bhanumathi)
C. R. Subburaman
1948 Krishna Bakthi Tamil * rAdhA samedhA krishNA S. V. Venkatraman & Kunnakudi Venkatrama Iyer
1949 Nallathambi Tamil * gAnalOlan madhanagOpalan S. M. Subbaiah Naidu & C. R. Subburaman
1949 Vazhkai Tamil * gOpAlanOdu nAn AduvEnE R. Sudharsanam
1949 Kanniyin Kadhali Tamil * puvi rAjA (with Thiruchi Loganathan)
* kANbana yAvum kAviyam pOlE
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu & C. R. Subburaman
1950 Manthiri Kumari Tamil * isai kalaiyE
* kadhal baliyAgi nIyum
* AhAhAhA vAzhvilE
* eNNum pozhuthil inbam
* manampol vAzhvu peRuvOmE (with Jikki)
G. Ramanathan
1950 Ezhai Padum Padu Tamil * yauvvanamE inba gItham
* kaNNan mana nilaiyE
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu
1950 Beedala Patlu Telugu * yauvanamE aha yauvanamE
* sarasaku rAdeAanE
S. M. Subbaiah Naidu
1951 Or Iravu Tamil * ayyA sAmi AvOji sAmi R. Sudharsanam
1951 Saudhamini Telugu * Elukkona Ra S. V. Venkatraman
1951 Navvithe Navaratnalu Telugu * mArubal kAvAdhe mIrA
* uyyaala lUgenA O manasam
G. Aswathama
1951 Manamagal Tamil * ellAm inbamayam (with P. Leela)
* chinnanchiru kiLiyE kaNNamma (with V. N. Sundaram)
* pAviyinum padupAvi (with V. N. Sundaram)
* thirantha kUttai
C. R. Subburaman
1951 Pelli Kooturu Telugu * antA prEmamayam (with P. Leela)
* vIra jAjula valapE (with C. R. Subburaman)
* pApula lOka dupApi (with C. R. Subburaman)
* 1950 ki 60 ki entO tEdA (with A. P. Komala)
C. R. Subburaman
1951 Rajambal Tamil * ahaha manaiviyAvEn M. S. Gnanamani
1952 Thai Ullam Tamil * konjum puRAvE
* veLLai thAmaRai pUvil
* kovil muzhuthum kaNden
* kathaiyai keLadA
G. Ramanathan
1952 Puratchi Veeran Tamil * kAraNam theriyAmal
1952 Panam Tamil * ezhaiyin kOyilai nAdinEn (with G. K. Venkatesh)
* kudumbathin viLakku
Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
1952 Andhaman Kaidhi Tamil * kAni nilam vEndum parAsakthi (with C. S. Jayaraman) G. Govindarajulu Naidu
1953 Manithan Tamil * kuyilE unakku G. Ramanathan
1953 Naalvar Tamil * vAanamIthilE (with Thiruchi Loganathan)
* inbam koLLUuthE
* mayilE
* iruL sUzhntha vAzhvil oLi vIsum nilavE
K. V. Mahadevan
1953 Kodarikam Telugu * illAlu illAlu
* mahA ganapathi gjAnanA
C. N. Pandurangan
1953 Manithanum Mirugamum Tamil * inbakuyil kuralinimai (with A. M. Rajah)
* imayamalai chaaralilE
G. Govindarajulu Naidu
1953 Inspector Tamil * vAruvAi manamOhanA (with V. N. Sundaram)
* madhana singArA nI vA
* mUdi irundha en vizhiyinul
G. Ramanathan
1953 Inspector Telugu * marupAyenA mOhana
* mArA sukumArA
* moodapa dhinanA muddulavInA
G. Ramanathan
1953 Anbu Tamil * AdavarE nAttilE (with A. M. Rajah)
* isaipAdi
T. R. Papa
1953 En Veedu Tamil * bUmiyilE oru (with Radha Jayalakshmi)
* konjumozhi (with T. A. Mothi)
* rAma rAma indhitaka
Chittor V. Nagaiah & A. Rama Rao
1953 Naa Illu Telugu * adigadigO gagana sIma andamaina chandamAmA (with T. A. Mothi)
* rArA mA intidakA
Chittor V. Nagaiah & A. Rama Rao
1953 Kangal Tamil * inba vInaiyai mIttuthu S. V. Venkatraman
1953 Mugguru Kodukkulu Telugu * ArAghu Ra muni (with N. L. Ganasaraswathi) K. G. Murthy
1954 Vairamalai Tamil * vanjam idhO vAnjai idhO (with Thiruchi Loganathan)
* kUvAmal kUvum kOkilam (with Thiruchi Loganathan)
* unnai eNNUm podhE
* senthAmaRai kaNNanE
Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
1954 Ratha Kanneer Tamil * kadhavai sAthadi
* Alaiyin sanggE Ni UthAyO
C. S. Jayaraman
1954 Sri Kalahastiswara Mahatyam Telugu * chUchi chUchi
* chAlu chAlu nA mOhanA
R. Sudharsanam
1954 Bedara Kannappa Kannada * dAri kAdu nA balu nondE R. Sudharsanam
1955 Kaveri Tamil * manjal veyyil mAlaiyilE (with C. S. Jayaraman) G. Ramanathan
1955 Kaveri Tamil * manadhinilE nAn konda Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
1955 Kalvanin Kadhali Tamil * tamil thirunAdu thannai peRRa (with N. L. Ganasaraswathi) G. Govindarajulu Naidu
1956 Kannin Manigal Tamil * kaNNin maNiyE vA S. V. Venkatraman
1956 Kuladeivam Tamil * thAyE yasodhA
* vArAyO ennai pArAyo
* Anum peNNum vAzvilE
R. Sudharsanam
1956 Madurai Veeran Tamil * Adal kAnIrO
* senthamizhA ezhunthu vArAyO
G. Ramanathan
1956 Thaaikkuppin Thaaram Tamil * nAdu sezhithida naaLum uzhaithida K. V. Mahadevan
1956 Nagula Chavithi Telugu * mArubal kAvAdhe mIrA Ghantasala
1957 Chakravarthi Thirumagal Tamil * enthan uLLam koLLai koLLa vantha nIlI yArO G. Ramanathan
1957 Iru Sagodharigal Tamil * thAyE un seyalallavO (with P. Leela) S. Rajeswara Rao
1957 Bhale Ammayilu Telugu * gOpAla jAgEla rA (with P. Leela) S. Rajeswara Rao
1957 Vanangamudi Tamil * siramathil thigazhvathu...... vA vA vA valarmathiyE vA G. Ramanathan
1957 Karpukkarasi Tamil * kaniyO pAgO kaRkaNdO (with P. B. Sreenivas)
* vizhiyOdu viLaiyAdum kalaichelvamE (with P. Leela)
G. Ramanathan
1957 Mayabazar Telugu * chinnAri sasirEkha vardhillavammA Ghantasala & S. Rajeswara Rao
1957 Maya Bajaar Tamil * Chinnari Sasirekha Vardhillavamma Ghantasala & S. Rajeswara Rao
1958 Bhookailas Telugu * munnIta pavalinchu
* dhEvA mahAdhEvA mamu brovumu siva
R. Sudharsanam & R. Govardhanam
1959 Mamiyar Mechiya Marumagal Tamil * mOgana rangA ennai pAradA (with Seerkazhi Govindarajan)
* kaNNA vA vA maNivaNNA vA vA
* maithunaRE maithunaRe (with A. P. Komala)
* viral mothiram..... inggE iruppathA
* ilavu kAtha kiLipOl
R. Sudharsanam
1959 Thanga Padhumai Tamil * varugiRAl unnai thEdi (with Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi) Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
1959 Kaveriyin Kanavan Tamil * vaNNatamizh sornakiLI K. V. Mahadevan
1959 Kalyanikku Kalyanam Tamil * Anandham indRu Arambam (with N. L. Ganasaraswathi)
1959 Jayabheri Telugu * nIventa nerajA navaurA Pendyala Nageswara Rao
1960 Parthiban Kanavu Tamil * andhi mayanguthadi
vadiVerE thirusUlam thONdrum thONdrum
* munnum
Vedha
1960 Meenda Sorgam Tamil * Adum arul jOthi (with Seerkazhi Govindarajan) T. Chalapathi Rao
1960 Petra Manam Tamil * sindhanai seiyadA (with Sivaji Ganesan's dialogues) S. Rajeswara Rao
1960 Mannadhi Mannan Tamil * kalaiyOdu kalanthadhu uNmai
* AdAtha manamum uNdO (with T. M. Soundararajan)
Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
1960 Raja Bakthi Tamil * kaRka kasadara kaRRapin G. Govindarajulu Naidu
1960 Raja Desingu Tamil * paaRkadal alai mElE G. Ramanathan
1961 Kongu Naatu Thangam Tamil * irunthum illathavarE K. V. Mahadevan
1961 Malliya Mangalam Tamil * avarindRi nAnillai T. A. Kalyanam
1962 Vikramaadhithan Tamil * adhisayam ivanadhu S. Rajeswara Rao
1965 Magane Kel Tamil * kalai manggai uruvam kaNdu (with Seerkazhi Govindarajan) Viswanathan Ramamoorthy
Tamil * manasukkuLLE maraichu veikka mudiyalE (with Seerkazhi Govindarajan)

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Hindu
  2. ^ "Sangeeta Kalanidhis". karnatik.com. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d The Hindu: Blend of melody, rhythm and intellect
  4. ^ a b c Calutta K.S. Krishnamurthi, 'Sruti' Issue 75–76 December 1990 – January 1991
  5. ^ "A Nightingale called MLV". 
  6. ^ a b c The Hindu: Voice with an enchanting lilt
  7. ^ Munneeta Pavalinchu song on YouTube