Sankara Nethralaya honors M.S. Subbulakshmi at Lincoln Center

Anoushka Shankar, the daughter of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, mesmerized audiences at the Lincoln Center November 5, performing one of her father’s most prized compositions at an event organized by the non-profit Sankara Nethralaya to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the late renowned classical singer M.S. Subbulakshmi, winner of the Bharat Ratna award.

The Lincoln Center event was the 12th and last event in Sankara Nethralaya’s tribute to Subbulakshmi who was an early supporter of SN. Shankar played her father’s Rāgā-Mālā Sitar Concerto No. 2, to a packed audience of more than 2,600 people, organizers told Desi Talk. She was followed by the New York Philharmonic’s rendition of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ symphony with Austrian conductor Manford Homeck. Zubin Mehta was supposed to be the conductor but he took ill and Homeck stepped in, K.S. Vasan, managing director of SN told Desi Talk.

The president of the New York Philharmonic, Mathew VanBesien, spoke about the accomplishments of Subbulakshmi, and invited Dr. S.S. Badrinath, founder and chairman-emeritus of Sankara Nethralaya, and his wife Dr. Vasanthi Badrinath to the stage. In his speech, Badrinath gave a history of the organization and how Subbulakshmi had played a critical role in its formative years by lending her name and fame, giving concerts and contributing her songs to raise funds for the organization. She also encouraging Badrinath to stay in India and commit himself fully rather than return to Boston.

Anita Achar performed Maithreem Bhajatha, a song composed by Jagadguru Chandrasekharendra Saraswati specifically for Subbulakshmi. She performed it 50 years ago Oct. 23, 1966, at the United Nations General Assembly on UN Day. This October, Sankara Nethralaya held a commemorative event at the U.N. to honor Subbulakshmi. Musician and composer A.R. Rahman was the highlight at that event. The Lincoln Center event, Vasan said, was a “fitting finale” to honoring the late classical singer. “It also provided tremendous exposure to Sankara Nethralaya’s work of providing eye-care in India,” Vasan added.

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