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Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari (popularly referred to as MLV 3 July 1928 – 31 October 1990) was a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. MLV and her contemporaries D. K. Pattammal and M. S. Subbulakshmi were popularly referred to as the “female trinity of Carnatic Music.A prime disciple of the G. N. Balasubramaniam, she was the youngest among the established musicians of that era, and was the youngest female awardee of the Sangita Kalanidhi award.
As well as being a much sought-after playback singer for films, MLV popularised unfamiliar ragas and her Ragam Thanam Pallaviswere considered cerebral. Additionally, she popularised the compositions of the Haridasas. Her most famous disciples include Srividya (her daughter), Sudha Raghunathan, A. Kanyakumari, Yogam Santhanam, V. Kaveri, Charumathi Ramachandran, Meena Subramanian and Yamuna Arumugam .
MLV was born to a musical family. Her father, Kuthanur Ayya Swamy Iyer, was a noted musician while her mother, Lalithangi, was also a great musician.When Deshbandu Chitharanjan Das (1870–1925) died in 1925, Lalithangi came out with a beautiful song by way of tribute to his national spirit and patriotism. A rare gramophone record (made in England) of her glorious voice rendering this song is said to be in V.Sundaram’s private possession.
MLV’s school education was in Madras, in a convent, where all was set to pursue a medical career until the great Carnatic musician G. N. Balasubramaniam came into her life. He became her guru. In her own words: My parents had rendered yeomen service to Carnatic music. They were mainly instrumental in popularising the compositions of Purandara Dasa in South India. They were not keen that I should enter the music field and gave me general education. But in the musical atmosphere of my house, I had ample opportunity of practising vocal music. Once G N Balasubramaniam heard me sing and he prevailed upon my parents to place me under his tutelage. It was he who was responsible for the status I occupy in the music world today.
In 1976, MLV was honoured with a doctorate degree from Mysore University for her work with regards to Purandaradasa’s contributions to music. MLV also received the third highest civilian honour from the Indian Government, “Padma Bhushan”. In 1977, at age 49, MLV became the youngest woman to earn the award and title in Carnatic music, Sangita Kalanidhi. She also received the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award given by The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai in 1987. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1970.
MLV was a front ranking artiste for more than 50 years. She died in 1990 at the age of 62. Beauty and sublimity were the cardinal characteristics of her music.