A Texas-Sized Remembrance for a Heart as Big as Texas


Guests of honor cutting the ribbon for the photo exhibit of M.S. Subbulakshmi, from left: Debbie McNulty, Director, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Houston; Pearland Mayor Thomas J Reid; Indian Consul General Anupam Ray and Houston City Controller Chris Brown, as Dr. Ashok Vasan, Managing Director of Sankara Nethralaya (back) watches.

By Srimathi & Narayanan Kumar

HOUSTON: The quote “You sing like an Angel!!” attributed to Helen Keller so aptly applies to Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi, fondly known as “MS Amma” to most of her ardent music fans. This past Saturday, September 17, hundreds of them gathered again to commemorate the MS Centenary at the Asia Society, Texas Center on Southmore with a recital of many of her songs by Carnatic composer and vocalist from Chennai, Padma Bhushan Sudha Raghunathan who was in town for the occasion.

The event was co-sponsored by Sankara Nethralaya, the charitable non-profit eye hospital in India and the Asia Society, Texas Center, coordinated by the Society’s Stephanie Todd Wong and Cori Capetillo.  The rasikas (music lovers) were treated to an exhibition of rare photos of moments from MS’ life journey, her musical awards and milestones.


From left, the guest singer for the evening Sudha Raghunathan; Divya Brown wife of the City Controller; and Nancy C. Allen, a founder of Asia Society, Texas Center at the ribbon cutting.

The guests of honor for the ribbon cutting of the exhibition were introduced by Sam Kannappan and included the Consul General of India Anupam Ray; Pearland Mayor Thomas J Reid; Heidi Wiess, ED, City of Pearland; Houston City Controller Chris Brown and his wife Divya; Debbie McNulty, Director, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Houston and Nancy C. Allen, a founder of Asia Society, Texas Center.

A short video clip of MS’ recital at the General Assembly Hall in 1966 for the United Nations Day celebration kept the audience spellbound. This was followed by the relating of interesting personal life stories of MS Amma by Anuradha Subramanian and Prabha Bala. Sesh Bala emceed the entire program.

Following the exhibition was an enthralling music concert by Sudha Raghunathan who took the audience into the music world of MS. After a spirited Saveri ragam varnam followed by Vadapi Ganapathim in ragam Hamsadwani, Raghunathan started the journey with some evergreen songs of MS like Rangapura Vihara in ragam Brindavana Saranga, in remembrance of the musical legend’s performance at the UN.


Carnatic composer and vocalist from Chennai, Padma Bhushan Sudha Raghunathan later sang several of MS Amma’s songs.

After successive renditions in ragams Panthuvarali and Hindolam, Raghunathan presented a soulful Pakala Nilabadi in ragam Karaharapriya and explained the meaning M.S.’s favorite song. The melodious Annamachariar’s Bhavayami Gopalabalam in ragam YamanKalyani took the rasikas to the ethereal world of music. This was followed by MS’ masterpiece Kurai onrum illai in Ragamalika. The simple words of this composition by Rajaji and the soulful rendition by Raghunathan mesmerized the audience. Raghunathan surprised everyone with her last piece Katrinile varum geetham (from the movie “Meera”) which has become a part of MS’ identity. Though the song was in praise of Krishna’s flute, the same feeling can easily be extended to MS’ divine voice.

The accompanying artists, Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on the mirdangam (percussion); Rajeev M. on the violin and R. Raman on the morsing (jaw harp) gave strong support in making the entire concert a memorable event. It was an apt tribute to one of India’s most celebrated musical artist and philanthropist M.S. Subbulakshmi and a superb program.

A short video showcased the work of Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai and highlighted the founder, Dr. S.S. Badrinath’s vision to provide world class eye care to the people in India by adopting the highest standard of care for all, rich and poor. Dr. Ashok Vasan, the Managing Director who also has a home in in Sugar Land, spoke about some of the philanthropic work done by Sankara Nethralaya.

The Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust, USA is a 501 (c) (3) U.S. registered non-profit organization, for further information contact the trustees, Leela Krishnamurthy at 281-494-9768 or Sam Kannappan at 713-724-4399. In honor of its benefactor, M.S.Subbulakshmi, the Trust is planning to establish a chair for music in university in the US and perform 3,000 free eye surgeries.