MLV, Music & Marghazi

By Sudha Jagannathan
Chennai: 25-02-2020 11:40PM
Last Updated: 25-02-2020 11:40PM

She may have gone into the pages of history. Yet, Madras Lalithangi Vasanthakumari, affectionately called as MLV (July 3, 1928 - October 31, 1990), even today retains a very special place in Carnatic music world. MLV, legendry singer late M.S. Subbulakshmi and D.K. Pattammal formed `the female trinity', and ruled the Carnatic music world for quite a long time. Musicologists and musicians alike appreciate MLV for her creativity and adventure, MS for her unique voice and bhakthi, and Pattammal for her traditional and clear rendition of lyrics. MLV was the youngest among the established musicians of that era and awarded the most prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi in 1977 by The Music Academy.

MLV was born in a musical family. Her father, Kuthanur Ayya Swamy Iyer, was a noted musician. Her mother, Lalithangi, was also a great musician.

MLV, according to her disciple Sudha Raghunathan, would not practice before a concert. However, she would prepare a pallavi in the car on way to her concert. MLV was adept at shifting from one raga to another and to a different pitch. Her mastery over sruthi and laya was impeccable. She had expressed her skill over many raga combinations such as Shanmukapriya/Sankarabaranam, Khambhoji/Kamas and Abhogi/Valaji with effortless ease. 
MLV's music was full of adventure, and she explored the music to the maximum extent possible. Her music was filled with a rare manodharma in raga elaboration, cascading brighas, unusual permutations and combinations, kalpana swaras and clear diction. All these portrayed her as an outstanding musician.
 She learnt this art from her guru late G.N. Balasubramaniam, who was also a composer and a vocalist. MLV's rendition of GNB's composition such as Samaganalole (Hindolam) and thillanas were riveting. MLV contributed immensely to popularize the Devarnamas of Purandara Dasa. She popularized "Venkatachala Nilayam" (Sindhubhairavi) and others. Lalithangi, her mother, had a vast repertoire of Purandaradasa. She passed on this glorious tradition to her daughter. If singer Brinda had brought Kshetrayya Padams to the public platform and MS the Annamacharya Kritis, MLV made the Devaranamas of Purandaradasa popular. Her disciples are now carrying on the task of popularizing Purandararadasa kritis. Noted vocalist Sudha Raghunathan is doing this job admirably. She never fails to enthrall her rasikas with Purandaradasa kritis such as "Ragi Tandiro" and others. Some of the notable musicians who have studied under MLV include Sudha Ragunathan, A. Kanyakumari, Trichur Ramachandran, Charumathi Ramachandran, Vanaja Narayanan, T.M. Prabhavathi, Meena Subramaniam, Jayanthi Sridharan, Jayanthi Mohan, Rose Muralikrishnan and Bama Visveswaran. MLV had also taught music to children at the Rishi Valley School, started by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer won't play for a female artiste. 
In a rare gesture, however, he had accompanied MLV in concerts. MLV was also accompanied by others such as Mannargudi Easwaran, Srimushnam Raja Rao, Seerkazhi J. Skandaprasad, Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, R.Ramesh, Karaikudi Krishnamurthy and G. Harishankar (kanjira).

MLV encouraged them by giving opportunities to accompany her in concerts. Ragam Thanam Pallavi (RTP) was her forte. In this exciting sphere of Carnatic music, MLV not only maintained the great tradition established by D.K Pattammal but made it richer in her own unique way. MLV had learnt the nuances of pallavi singing from Mudikondan Venkatrama Ayyar. The audio cassettes of Andal Tiruppavai rendered beautifully by MLV are most sought after by the rasikas. Come Marghazi, the gentle music of MLV will float in the morning air as the temples around the city play her Tiruppavai cassettes, bringing new freshness to the mind, body and the entire atmosphere. Indeed, the rendition of Thiruppavi was one of her greatest contributions to the cause of spreading divinity among masses through simple and pristine music. Each and every composition with difficult Tamil lyrics was rendered so well by MLV in her album and in different ragas. Most of the younger artistes of the modern day still follow her style in rendering these particular compositions. MLV was successful in the world of film, too. MLV's first big hit "Ellam Inbamayam" was in the film Manamagal. She had sung the now famous ragamalika song "Chinnanchiru Kiliyae" in the same film. MLV used to sing this song towards the end of her classical concerts. She had another hit number - "Konjum Purave", from "Thayullam" (1952). This was based on the Hindi song, "Thandi Havayen". This is a very popular number even today. "Aadatha Manamum Undo" and many other hit numbers such as "Ayya Sami" had made her popular not among the Carnatic music buffs but also to a very wider audience. www.carnaticdarar.com offer our pranams to this great artiste on her 18th anniversary (October 31).
(This article was first published in 2009)