Friday, 6 May 2016

MS, A Life in Music

Details of the Book
No. of Pages   : 303 Pages
ISBN               : 8172237081 (ISBN13: 9788172237080)
Language        : English

From the book blurb
For MS music was a therapy of the soul. In music, she found strength, solace and stimulation. By giving her music everything she had, she received in return a blissfulness nothing else could give her.

TJS George is a writer and biographer. In 2011, he received a Padma Bhushan award for his literature and education.

What I think
MS Subbulakshmi, the owner of ethereal voice which always takes us to the space of serenity and closer to divinity, has been an enigma. MS, A Life in Music tries to throw light on this legend whose voice gradually graduated to be the voice of spirituality. As I read, I realized that the book is more about music in general than about MS in particular.

The book starts by describing how music evolved. It talks about Sabha and Kutcheri. It also throws light on how women were eventually stopped from performing arts and eventually how the arts (both dance and music) was injected by male domination. It also explains about Devadasi community, MS being one. The author describes these aspects in depth which makes us realize why MS is a phenomenon! When women belonging to Devadasi community, continued to follow its customs, her mother pushed MS and her siblings beyond its customs and traditions. Later on, MS herself resolved that she would prefer a respectable lifestyle. MS is an intriguing personality. She breathed music; her lifeline. She had a trait to hide her emotions and let it go through music.

Her marriage with Kalki Sadasivam shows that she was shrewd and that she was clear about who can get her what. Her submissiveness always complimenting Sadasivam’s dominance helped MS in making her husband’s dreams come true; which were also the inner dreams of MS. Behind the successful MS, it was her husband and his confidence in her. If MS’s music was the foundation, Sadasivam’s relentless plans and its careful execution were the pillars on which her musical empire was built.

The author also links the evolution of theatre and dance forms along with music which gives a comprehensive view of the bygone era. Finally, he ends with how music started drowning by the emergence of film music. He discusses such evolution until the times of AR Rahman.

Author’s thoughts are clear which reflects in his writing style. Sometimes, he is forced to talk about dry aspects like the history of performing arts. But he has handled that very well. Some of the pictures of MS is given, starting from her childhood days. What I missed in the book is a flavor of MS’s personal life, her thoughts, preferences and her dreams. The book is more from a distant spectator’s perspective. So I doubt if this book could be termed as a biography of MS; it is more a story about music per se.

To sum up, if you are a music lover… If MS has always been a part of your life through Suprabhatham and Vishnu Sahasranamam… If you feel disgusted that we have abandoned our values and arts while accepting the western culture… If you simply want to understand that strong determination and willpower is required to make it big, read this book… I am sure that you will hear music differently after that!



  1. That's one inspiring story we can all emulate.
    It really does us good to follow our passion. We are blessed and we become a blessing to others.

  2. I would love to read this book, but me too would like to read more on the life of the person and the struggles she had to undergo.

    Destination Infinity

  3. A honest review of a talented musician who has had her share of problems but spent the later part of her life in philanthropy.Her music has impacted every home.

  4. Her voice is heard in our house everyday! I have read a lot about her personal life. Yes, Sadashivam promoted her well and too care of her well too! I will look for this book soon!

  5. An enigma she was. I agree, her voice croons at every house and corner even to this day. A good review. Tempted to pick up the book