Musiri Subramania Iyer

Vocalist

Born: April 9, 1899, Tamil Nadu, India

Died: March 25, 1975, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Awards: Padma Bhushan (1971)

Musiri Subramania Iyer was a carnatic vocalist whose stage performing career spanned from the 1920s to the 1940s. He remained an iconic figure in carnatic music, and a dedicated teacher and leader in the carnatic community. Musiri Subramania Iyer is one of the giants of carnatic music in this century.

Musiri Subramania Iyer was born in Bommalapalayam in the Trichy district of Tamil Nadu. His father, Sankara Sastry, was a Sanskrit pandit. He lost his mother, Seethalakshmi, as a boy and his sister Rajathi also passed away when she was a child. His family was poor.

He married Nagalakshmi when he was 14 years old. Musiri Subramania Iyer learned to fluently speak, read and write in English when he was 17. Inspired by the singing of a popular acting star of those days, S. G. Kittappa, he decided to become a musician.

Musiri Subramania Iyer’s initial training in music was under S. Narayanaswamy Iyer for two years, before moving to Chennai for more serious studies under violinist Karur Chinnaswami Iyer. He later became the disciple of renowned vocal teacher T.S. Sabhesa Iyer who lived in Purasawalkam. Musiri Subramania Iyer trained under him for 9 years in the guru shishya parampara style. He made his debut in Chennai in 1920. Within 10 years his reputation as a master musician across India was sealed.

During his tenure, he influenced a whole generation of musicians, retiring in 1965.

The President honored him with the Padma Bhushan in 1971. Roads have been named after him in Tamil Nadu, and national postage stamps were issued bearing his portrait in 1999.

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