acknowledge Srimati M. S. SUBBULAKSHMI as the leading exponent of classical and
semi-classical songs in the Karnataka tradition of South India. They and ordinary people
alike find in the compelling melody and sweetness of her bhajans, or folk spirituals,
"a deep, pure and abstract emotional appeal," transporting them to a sense of
unity with the supreme deity. Rooted in millenia of Indian culture and mythology, her
bhajans are a means of prayer and solace in the villages where bhakti marg, or the way of
devotion, supersedes more intellectual philosophies.
The gift of song that reaches the hearts of her countrymen results from a passionate
pursuit of artistic excellence. As a girl of 10, in the South Indian cultural center of
Madurai where she was born in 1916, SUBBULAKSHMI began accompanying her celebrated
mother's singing and veena playing. An enchanting voice, hard work, exacting discipline,
character, humility and willingness to learn from everyone, made her at the age of 17 a
soloist in her own right. When, at the age of 24, she married T. Sadasivamnow
publisher of the prestigious Tamil weekly, Kalki, in Madrasshe gained also her
"friend, philosopher and guide."
As, with maturing years, SUBBULAKSHMI's versatility encompassed Hindustani classics of
North India and folk songs of many regions, her following grew far beyond the South; wider
audiences first heard her in the film Meera. Mahatma Gandhi asked only to hear her sing
"Hari Tuma Haro," or "Thou God," on his 78th birthday, which proved
tragically to be his last. Jawaharlal Nehru, after hearing her sing, said, "Who am I,
a mere Prime Minister, before a Queen of Song?"
On tours abroad SUBBULAKSHMI sang at the Edinburgh International Music Festival and before
the United Nations. Her vocal "filigree," traversing three octaves, and fidelity
to tone and rhythm reached through to listeners unfamiliar with melodic Indian music that
neither needs nor implies harmony.
In April 1944, after five successful benefit performances given for the Memorial Fund
honoring Gandhi's wife, Kasturba, SUBBULAKSHMI 's voice became an instrument for public
causes. Receipts of concert hallsfilled to overflowingand open
amphitheatersoften packed with tens of thousands paying only four annas each (three
U.S. cents) so as to deny no one the joy of her songshave been given to constructive
works. Equivalent to over one million U.S. dollars, her contributions have benefited
foundations for the poor, hospitals, orphanages, schools, and music and journalism
institutes. While becoming the idol of millions, this lady has remained deeply religious,
unpretentious and almost childlike in her simplicity.
In electing Srimati M. S. SUBBULAKSHMI to receive the 1974 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her exalting rendition of devotional song
and magnanimous support of numerous public causes in India over four decades.