/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": Music's Lady Virtuoso : M. L. Vasanthakumari

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Music's Lady Virtuoso : M. L. Vasanthakumari

A lady musician, just 26, was conferred the title Sangeeta Vani in Madras in 1954. Her accomplishments were worthy of being recognised at a function graced by some of the greatest music exponents of that era including Rajamanickam Pillai, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, C. Saraswathi Bai, K. B. Sundarambal, and M.M. Dandapani Desikar; and connoisseurs like Dr. R. Krishnaswami, Dr. U. Krishna Rao and finally the Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari. That lady virtuoso was none other than Dr. M. L. Vasanthakumari or MLV.

[ Courtesy: South Asian Woman's Forum ]

MLV went on to win many more laurels including the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1977 as the youngest woman recipient till now (49). Among the legion of her fans, her acronym was expanded also as Melody-Laya-Vidwat. MLV was born into a musical family, but during those difficult times, she needed strong encouragement from a musical celebrity like GNB to dare choose a career in music. That she became his most famous disciple is the stuff of legend.

MLV's mother Madras Lalithangi once met a saint visiting from Karnataka who initiated her into the rich treasure of Purandara Dasa kritis. It made such an impact on her that Lalithangi and her guru-husband Mr. Iyer spent all their fortune to bring out a compilation of kritis, “Sri Purandara Mani Malai” during the difficult times of World War II. It was Life's way of honouring the family's unremitting efforts that MLV was conferred a doctorate by Mysore University in 1976 for her contribution to the propagation of Dasa Sahitya.

MLV was much loved and honoured in Parvathi. She performed there many times. In 1971 she was honoured along with Mysore V. Doreswamy Iyengar and the function was followed by a brilliant MLV concert. We are privileged to offer that recording here.

[ Mr.M.S.Swaminathan IAS, Divisional Commissioner of Mysore, Presides ]
[ Sangeetha Natak Academy Award Winners felicitated in "Parvathi" 1971 ]
[ Dr. M.L. Vasanthakumari and Vidwan Doreswamy Iyengar ]

The concert itself is remarkable on many counts. Following an emphatic rendering of Begada -something rare from a lady vocalist, MLV proceeds with a wonderful Kalyani. There are many moments of explosive creativity in the rendering. The kriti Rama Ni Vadukonduvo is a rarely heard Thyagaraja piece in Trishra Nadai, and it is a feast. Then comes an elaborate Bhairavi RTP. Add to that a Pancharatna kriti and some splendid Devaranamas, and you have a quintessential hallmark concert with the stamp of MLV's musical genius. It is doubly satisfying to feel the camaraderie and virtuous collaboration from the violin and mridangam accompanists. The ensemble's delightful musical journey is akin to a joyous family's travelling in good old times on Chamundi Express from Bangalore to Mysore, savouring every tasty treat and scenic delight on the way. What a blessing indeed!

The Concert
Ramanavami Concert - 8 -4- 1971.

M.L. Vasanthakumari – Vocal
T.M. Prabhavathi – Vocal Support
Tiruvallur Subramanyam – Violin
Tanjavur Krishnamurthy Rao – Mridangam
? - Ghatam

01. Vanajaaksha- Mandari varnam – Mysore Vasudevachar*** 02. Pranamaamyaham- Gowla- Mysore Vasudevachar*** 03. Jagadaanandakaaraka – Naata Pancharatna – Thyagaraja *** 04. Laalisidalu magana – Aarabhi – Purandara dasa *** 05. Shankari neeve – Begade- Subbaraya Shastri *** 06. Raaka Sashivadana - Raga Takka – Thyagaraja *** 07. Rama Ni Vadukonduvo – Kalyani – Thyagaraja *** 08. Mariyaadagaadayya – Bhairavam – Thyagaraja *** 09. Bhairavi RTP + Bauli-Saama-Kiranaavali ragamalika *** 10. Shloka and Yaadavaraaya- Basant Bahar-SindhuBhairavi-Durga –Kanaka Dasa *** 11. Uga Bhoga, Yaake Nirdayanaadeyo – Ragamalika (Bhairav, Kalavati, Bhimplas) – Purandara Dasa *** 12. 12. Vaame Bhoomisuthaa – Shloka – Hamsanandi, Saveri, Shubhapantuvaraali, Suruti *** 13. Dhanashri Tillana – Swathi Thirunal *** 14. Mangalam


Even after so many years, her name brings a hush in the "Parvathi" household. It is a hush caused by reflection on so many beautiful and personable moments of her having been there. There is even one, that includes her coaxing family members to join her in singing (yes, there are some recordings of that too!).

So we egged on, someone, who was almost like a daughter to her. Here are the words of 'that' daughter, captured solemnly:

"What really can I add to the things that have already been said? She was everything to me! I have but only very fond memories of 'dear MLV aunty'.

When I was a child, she would almost, always , bring me the gift of a beautiful doll, an expensive frock, or some such thing whenever we visited each others homes.

Later on as I grew up and started to sing, after each of her concerts in "Parvati", and as we used to relax, she would invariably ask me to sing old Lata Mangeshkar's songs. She would appreciate them so much, that she would ask me to sing more and more. She would make me feel as if I was on top of the world!

I also cannot forget the affectionate, encouraging and appreciative words that she spoke during my cassette release function.

Personally, I put her in the number one spot amongst carnatic vocalists. What 'shaareera' ! What gamakas! What ease with which she sang! and what creativity!, be it 'alapana', 'neraval', 'swaraprastara' or 'sloka'!


I was sitting listening to that very same Karaharapriya which is posted on this blog, when we got the news that she was no more.

Above all, what a fine human being she was! Never spoke a harsh or ill word about anyone. She lived just for the sake of her art.

These few words of mine are just MY VERY HUMBLE OBEISANCE to this great soul... "

- Mysore Prabha