The Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi Centenary Awards were on Tuesday presented to seven of India’s most-respected women artistes, including vocalists Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, Aruna Sairam, Vishaka Hari, dancers Yamini Krishnamurthy and Vyjayanthimala Bali and Pandavani exponent Teejan Bai, at a ceremony in Mumbai.
The late M.S. Subbulakshmi’s birth centenary celebrations, which began last year at the Sri Shanmukhananda hall, is concluding with a week-long festival that began on September 12.
Giving the keynote address, V. Shankar, chairman of the Sri Shamukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, said that while the first day of the festival showcased the life and times of M.S. Subbulakshmi through the medium of theatre, the second day was meant to symbolically award seven great woman performers, corresponding to seven notes on the Indian musical scale.
Mr. Shankar spoke of Ms. Subbulakshmi’s compassion for the poor, her reverence for all of her gurus and the incredible affection she had for her rasikas or those who came to listen to her music. He told a story of how she sang for a full extra hour in a concert just for the benefit of a poor elderly couple who had walked the whole day to reach her concert but had arrived too late.
He said that unlike other great vocalists, the artists who accompanied her often stayed with her for several years, a mark of the respect she afforded them.
Each of the awardees was given a shawl, a cut out of Ms Subbulakshmi, a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh and a CD with a collection of her songs.
Responding to the felicitation, legendary Thumri singer Girija Devi said that she was honoured to receive the award as she would always remember the voice and words of Ms. Subbulakshmi. She revealed how Ms. Subbulakshmi had come to visit her house in Benares and she had in turn paid her a visit in Chennai.
Hindustani singer Kishori Amonkar said that Ms. Subbulakshmi was an exemplary ambassador for Indian classical music in both India and abroad. She used the occasion to give a message: that the promotion of Indian classical music be very seriously considered by the Indian cultural ministry. “I am seeing a gradual deterioration in the younger generation and I think the ministry should take this seriously and see that classical music survives and continues to provide bliss to many.”
Dancer and former actor Vyjayanti Mala Bali said that the award was not only special for her but one of the greatest rewards God has bestowed on her.
Dancer Yamini Krishnamurti on the other hand, recalled how she and Ms. Subbulakshmi had been part of many music festivals together.