By Utpal Borpujari
In a rare treat for lovers of India’s classical music, Saregama India Ltd has launched a series that will contain never-heard performances by the country’s musical stalwarts, kicking it off with the 1971 recording of a live concert by the great M S Subbulakshmi.
Titled Unheard MS, the first album in the series contains 14 of Subbulakshmi’s special rendition of ragas, kritis and bhajans at a concert in Chennai’s Mylapore Fine Arts Club that Saregama accessed from the personal archives of the musical genius’ daughter Radha Vishwanathan.
“We are creating this ‘Unheard’ brand that will comprise all such unreleased recordings from the past, and the Subbulakshmi album is the first in the series,” Saregama’s Aishwarya Natarajan, who conceptualised the album, told Deccan Herald here.
Subbulakshmi, who also acted in quite a few movies, was hailed as the “Queen of Song” and the “Goddess of the Musical Note” during her lifetime. Mahatma Gandhi had once said of her, “I would rather hear her speak the song than someone else sing it.”
“The recording was on an old-style spool, and we have cleaned it up and digitally re-mastered it to make it sound crystal clear. We owe this album to Radha Vishwanathan,” Natarajan said.
“We chose this collection because it had a complete kacheri and featured some of her very popular ragas and some kritis not performed very often,” she said.
The album begins with the famous Daru Varnam ‘Maate Malayadhwaja’ in Ragam Khamas by Muthiah Bhagavathar. In another piece, Subbulakshmi’s rendition of the rare kriti “Shri Chandrasekahara” in Shankarabharanam raga shows the artiste’s amazing vocal range.
Other tracks include “Challare Rama” in Ahiri and the sublime abhang “Sundara Te Dhyana” in Yamuna Kalyani. The recordings are from a time when Subbulakshmi was at her peak as a singer, Natarajan, an assistant manager with Saregama, said.
Those accompanying the singer in the concert too have been greats in their own fields, such as Vikku Vinayakram in ghatam, K S Azhagiri Swamy in violin, TK Murthy in mridangam and V Nagarajan in kanjira.
The company is working to bring out other such “unheard” performances in the form of albums. “In that sense, they are like brand new performances as no one except those present at those particular performances have ever heard them,” Natarajan said.