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Musical Anecdotes about Soolamangalam Sisters

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  • Musical Anecdotes about Soolamangalam Sisters

    Musical Anecdotes about Soolamangalam Sisters


    Musical Anecdotes about Artists—28

    28.Soolamangalam Jayalakshmi ( 1938---) and Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi ( 1940—1992)

    Popularly known as Soolamangalam Sisters they are Carnatic music sister-pair vocalists and musicians known for their devotional songs in Tamil. They were early singers in the trend of duo singing in Carnatic music, which started in the 1950s, with performers like Radha Jayalakshmi, and later continued by Bombay Sisters , Ranjani-Gayatri and Priya Sisters.


    Born in Soolamangalam near Ayyampettai of Tanjavur district – a village with musical heritage. Their parents were Karnam Ramaswmai Ayyar and Janaki Ammal. The sisters had their training in music from K. G. Murthi of Soolamangalam, Pathamadai S.Krishnan and Mayavaram Venugopalayyar.


    Their family included three daughters and one son. All the four had voracious appetite for Carnatic music even from early ages. It was enough that she listened to a song just once, Rajalakshmi could repeat the song effortlessly with precision! Gurumurthy was their music teacher who gave them formal training in Carnatic music. When their father died all of a sudden, they were brought to Madras by Uncle Swaminathan who put them under the tutelage of 'Pathamadai' Krishnan, the grandson of Bharathiyar and they blossomed under his strict tutoring.


    The duo-sisters were very popular for their matchless rendition of National and Devotional songs. They had a hectic practice for about three decades and were much sought after for providing background music in films. Their hugely popular albums were Skandha Sashti Kavacham , devotional songs like Vishnu Sahasranaamam, Kurai Onrum Illai, Sri Venkatesa Suprabhatham, Aigiri Nandini.

    Jayalakshmi got an opportunity to sing on All India Radio. They performed together at an exhibition and the audience included Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and N. S. Krishnan who were very much impressed with their rendition. Subsequently, Bhagavathar and P. U. Chinnappa sent word to them and made them sing a few 'kirthanas'. Thus they got chances to sing for many movies which received critical acclaim.

    Among the two of them, Jayalakshmi had rendered only a few songs in films and most of it would be duets with Rajalakshmi. Rajalakshmi had more chance as a playback singer in films. Her voice suited all the categories of youthful, soft mellifluousness, evocative feelings, perfection of pronunciation and proved best in devotional songs.Many of her songs are under K. V. Mahadevan's music direction . She also sang under G. Ramanathan, Naushad, T. G. Lingappa, Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy, Brother Lakshmanan V. Dakshinamurthy and under her own music compositions.

    She sang memorable duets mostly with T. M. Soundararajan. Others include Sirkazhi Govindarajan, P. B. Sreenivas, M. Balamurali Krishna and K. J. Yesudas. She also sang duets with female singers with most notably with her sister Jayalakshmi, P. Leela and P. Suseela. Others are L. R. Easwari, Radha Jayalakshmi, M. L. Vasanthakumari, S. Janaki and Jikki.


    Their devotional songs are more popular compared to those of others, especially the song 'Shashtiyai Nokka Saravanabhavanaar …' of 'Kanda Shashti Kavasam', the song having created a record in the sale at the global level in devotional song audiotapes. It is very unfortunate that when Rajalakshmi, the younger of the two died at her 54th year in 1992, her sister Jayalakshmi gave up singing.