There is no street in the South of India where the strains of her melodious voice cannot be heard early in the morning. The minute the speaker fills with her voice, the old and the young, the weak and the strong, the healthy and the infirm, all rise. There is no need for a morning alarm. After all, this is God speaking to you through one of his great creations.
Born to a devadasi mother, MS Subbulakshmi grew up in an environment that encouraged her to learn music. She started learning Carnatic music at an early age and was performing publicly by the time she was eleven years old. By the age of seventeen, she was performing concerts at music festivals. Even as her mother sought to marry her off to a man of her choice, MS slipped out of the house one night, boarded a train and landed up in Chennai. There, she sought refuge at the house of a benefactor who had sought to help her in the past. Although himself married and with children, the gentleman helped MS and in time, they found themselves in love with each other, despite the scandal and sensation that it created. MS would find herself caught in a three-way tug-of-war — pulled in turn by her mother, her lover, and his family. She stayed the course and prevailed in time, marrying the man she had chosen for herself.
In time, the singer would effortlessly adopt a stylish, upper-caste, upper-class lifestyle, known as much for her glistening kanjeevaram silk saris and sparkling diamond nose ring as for her golden voice.
In a Carnatic music world torn apart by issues of caste and gender, MS Subbulakshmi would earn respect and recognition around the world, including from the same upper caste communities that had once whispered behind her back, but now considered her the voice of God. Her life would be spent in devotion of her art while breaking barriers created by society.
MS Subbulakshmi dared to be different and showed us that love and music have no barriers. Will you dare to be different by breaking barriers of your own creation?