NEW YORK: To commemorate the birth centenary of legendary Carnatic music vocalist Bharat Ratna Awardee M.S.Subbulakshmi, Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai, is organizing a grand musical tribute by Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman at the United Nations General Assembly hall in New York on August 15, India’s 70th Independence Day.
Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, who helped organize the UN events, said India has produced some of the best musicians in the world and among them was Subbulakshmi. She enhanced the prestige of the nation by singing at the UN General Assembly in 1966, he said.
The gala musical evening also coincides with the completion of 50 years of M.S.Subbulakshmi’s performance in the very same venue in 1966. Subbulakshmi was the first Indian musician ever to be awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor conferred by the Government of India and also became the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.
Subbulakshmi, one of the greatest Carnatic musicians of the century, was invited by the then United Nations Secretary General U Thant and the then Chef de Cabinet C.V. Narasimhan to perform in the UN General Assembly Hall, considered a great honor for India and the music world. She thus became the first Indian to perform at the UN General Assembly.
Sankara Nethralaya in its mission of paying international tribute to Subbulakshmi is arranging a grand Carnatic music concert by Padma Bhushan awardee Sudha Raghunathan, a leading Carnatic vocalist and her troupe, also at the United Nations on October 2.
As a finale to the global celebrations, Sankara Nethralaya is also organizing a musical concert featuring world renowned Indian-origin composer Zubin Mehta, Anoushka Shankar and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center in New York City on November 5.
Subbulakshmi sang the everlasting benediction in Sanskrit “Maithreem Bhajatha” especially composed by Maha Periyava His Holiness Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swami of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in Tamil Nadu to invoke world peace. That song brought her a standing ovation at the world body. The Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam that runs the world-famous Venkateswara temple has erected a statue of her in Tirupathi town.
Dr S.S. Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus of Sankara Nethralaya, said as an organization for the society and by the society – Sankara Nethralaya has been blessed with the support of numerous individuals and organizations since its inception in 1978. One of the main patrons of the hospital who supported the community efforts of Sankara Nethralaya was M.S. Subbulakshmi, he said.
US-based Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust (SN OM Trust) is also planning six concerts by Sudha Ragunathan in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago and Washington DC during September under “Voice for Vision” musical series to raise funds for its charitable activities.
S.V. Acharya, President of Sankara Nethralaya Om Trust in the US, said the Trust is also seeking corporate sponsors on creating a Chair for Music in the name of Dr. M. S. Subbulakshmi in one of the universities in the United States. The Trust is also working to raise sufficient funds to perform at least 3,000 free ophthalmic surgeries in honor of Subbulakshmi at Sankara Nethralaya in India.