A Connoisseur’s Delight
Aruna Roy
OF GIFTED VOICE: THE LIFE AND ART OF M.S. SUBBULAKSHMI by HarperCollins India HarperCollins India, 2021, 522 pp., 699.00
September 2021, volume 45, No 9

Keshav Desiraju’s Of Gifted Voice: The Life and Art of M.S. Subbulakshmi, is a connoisseur’s delight. It brings her extraordinary life to us embedded in the detailed narrative of the intricate musical world and contemporary social history of the 1900s.

Desiraju’s scholarship has sharpened the understanding of the music of Subbulakshmi and her times. It is an important book for rasikas of Carnatic music. It is also an initiation to the infinite repertoire of Carnatic musical tradition, and an introduction to the technology of appreciation of that music. It gently nudges the reader into the world of musical history and the intricate details of the Carnatic musical system  through the lens of a musical phenomenon. It is a text for scholars of music in the Carnatic tradition globally. In these days of instant gratification, it demands much more than a passing glance. It demands time, attention and serious intent from the lay reader, whose interest in Carnatic music has been kindled, but who has to refer names, musical traditions and even perhaps locations, in the abundant notes and appendices. This book details kritis MS sang in concerts, with names of ragas and composers. We owe much to Desiraju, who has offered this encyclopaedic understanding to us in such a readable and accessible form.

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