ML Vasanathakumari

The trademark cherubic smile masking the full-throated enunciation of words, the sophistication in tone, the notes wafting in the breeze, and an alluring depth of ideas, all with an endearment that made her rare, unique, unparalleled. Her Mayanai continues to be the early morning Margazhi alarm, Ragasudha and Andolika still sweep listeners off their feet, Baaro the quintessential clarion call, and oodles of such renditions that have become so much a part of the musical paradigm of every music student, connoisseur, and aficionado. None can surpass that majestic chiming bell-like quality of her rendition.

It was 1987, and her student Sudha Venkataraman hurriedly scribbles down the address after MLV Amma’s concert. Somewhere in Sriram Nagar, Alwarpet. 

The following morning at 7am we were at her door, my mother and me. My mother’s love for music has always been synonymous with her adulation and respect for MLV Amma. And she would have given anything for her daughter, me, to be taken under the MLV Amma’s wings. But it was not to be for MLV Amma had left for Rishi Valley. Fate continued to reject several of our attempts to meet her, my mother’s dream remained just that, as time marched on.

This little personal anecdote serves as a way for me to thank my mother, for she is the one who ceaselessly talked to me about MLV and her music. As a student, absorbing the music with those aesthetics, the richness and that regal presentation style that characterized MLV Amma was a huge blessing. For my mother it has been, it is, and it always will be MLV. She had a small cassette player and would pick two of MLV’s tapes, playing those over and over and over again, pointing out one aspect of the music after another, stuff that was just not obvious. This was my early life’s musical journey and MLV Amma’s music was the rudder.

Later in life, one of MLV’s last concerts that I heard was at Indian Fine Arts. The main piece was Namami in Hamsadvani where she mesmerized the audience. At a Purandara Dasar concert where she rendered the RTP in Sriranjani based on a Dasar pada at the Narada Gana Sabha, not a single pair of eyes was dry. I still remember a concert at the Music Academy, where she was in a (Mitthai) pink saree. I can still hear the main piece in Mohanam she sang that evening. MLV Amma sang on both days , Saturday and Sunday in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall to 3000-member audiences. I attended both concerts and I distinctly remember them, for she rendered the two concerts in two completely different repertoires. The packed hall kept asking for more!

We always wanted much more of MLV Amma and her beautiful presence. She unhesitatingly gave it all for us to cherish for decades and generations.


This article was first published in July 2018 to celebrate MLV’s 95th birth anniversary in souvenir commissioned by disciples of MLV.