M.S.Sheela is a Bangalore based artiste known for her versatality - having had her training initally from her mother, Smt. M.N. Rathna -who herself was a concert artiste. She undertook rigorous and advanced training, from Sangita Kalanidhi, R.K.Srikantan in Bangalore. Sheela has passed her Master's degree in music with distinction and she was awarded a gold medal. She has received many coveted awards and titles from several presitigious sabhas. She is a A-Top artiste of the A.I.R and Dooradarshan. In 1976, when her guru, R.K.Srikantan could not fulfil his prime-time concert engagement at the Music Academy, Sheela filled the bill for him and performed very well. Sheela was adjudged the best Senior female vocalist by the Music Academy in 1997. Sheela has many good things going for her. A pleasant and pliable voice, good control on laya and a nice stage presence. She is a popular artiste. Her enunciation of the lyrics-whatever may be the language of a kriti is set, is impeccable. Any listener can pick up the words of the kritis with ease.
In her recent concert tours of the North America, many rasikas were commenting on her clear pronunciation of the words. She has demonstrated 'difficult' pallavis at the Music Academy, Madras, Gayana samaja, and the Percussive Arts center, both in Bangalore. Her concerts are lively in the sense, she has a wide repertoire of compositions. She includes a ragam-tanam-pallavi with uncommon tala sequence, plus a few kritis (set in two kalai talam) from the musical trinity and later composers finally treading on the compositions of the modern composers. Many compositions of Haridasas like Vyasa Raya, Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Vijaya Vittala Dasa and others, she has tuned them and popularizing them in her concerts. Often, she sings a kriti or two in rare ragas like Budhamanohari, Simhavahini etc.
She has cut several cassette tapes and CD's from many commercial recording companies. I learn she has been a play back singer in a few movies and she was voted the best playback singer recently. The veteran critic, Subbudu has remarked in December '94 about Sheela's music as follows: "Her music is of the MLV-type -daredevil and adventurous. There is no musical phrasings on earth that she cannot negotiate with ease. What a range and what a melody! Every one of her alapana and kriti was marked by highest professionalism. I am certain even a nadaswaram vidwan cannot reproduce some of her bravura passages. And those triple note phrasings. Oh God, Sheela are you a computer? It is just not enough to say it was of superlative variety."
Dr. Rangarajan of Dayton, after listening to Sheela's concerts commented very aptly: "M.S.Sheela has the clarity and diction of D.K.Pattammal, melody and bhava of M.S.Subbulakshmi and technicality and swara prastharas of M.L.Vasnathakumari. His comments summarize Sheela's talents as a consummate musician of high order.
Written by Ashok Madhav