Blazing a fiery trail with his distinctive voice and unconventional performing style, MADURAI S SOMASUNDARAM created history. He was known as Madurai SOMU or simply ?SOMU? to his thousands of fans. His first concert was at the Tiruchendur temple in 1934 and there was no looking back after that.
SOMU was one of the most courageous innovators of his time. He had an open throated style of singing and could bring tears to the eyes of his innumerable rasikas by the emotion he poured in to his renditions. He had a penchant for rendering Tamil songs and he packed them with sentiment.
SOMU was the torch bearer of the Chittoor School. He had his initial training under Sri Sesha Bagawathar of Madurai, Sri Abhirama Sasthriar and Sri Sattur Sundaresa Patter. He however honed his talents under Sri Chittoor Subramania Pillai, who himself was a disciple of the inimitable Kanchipuram Naina Pillai. But SOMU created a style of singing that was entirely his own. He had a very fluid voice but it was a bit hoarse at times. He reveled in elaborate raga alapanas. He had a vivid imagination and would bring it all to fruit in his alapanas.
SOMU was known for his boundless energy and marathon concerts. It was typical for him to begin a concert about ten in the night and go on till the wee hours of the morning. It was most expected for a SOMU concert to last at least 4-5 hours! He would then leave by the morning bus for his next destination and repeat the feat there?. He was indefatigable.
SOMU was very innovative and had an unconventional approach to concerts. He did not think much of taking liberties with form and style and this often earned him many detractors. But to his numerous fans, once he was on the stage nothing else mattered. They had eyes and ears only for him.
SOMU composed many songs and also numerous Pallavis. His pallavis were very elaborate and were often composed on the deity of the place he was to perform at. They were generally long winded with no particular technical sophistication but his renditions would make up for all that and more. He also popularized many ?tiruppugazhs?. His emotion filled renditions of tamil bhajans and devotional songs were unmatched and keenly looked forward to by his big following of fans.
SOMU has been the recipient of many awards and titles.
Ranjitha Ghana was the first title Somu received, in 1946
The title of Isai Perarigner was awarded by the Chennai Tamil Isai Sangam at their 29th Conference during 1971-1972
Tamil Nadu Sangeetha Nataka Academy conferred the title Kalai Mamani in the year 1972
During the year 1976, Padmashri was awarded by Shri Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, the then President of India
Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu conferred the post of Professor and Head of the Music Department , and Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts.
The New Delhi, Sangeet Natak Academy selected SOMU as one of the General Council and Executive members for a period of five years from 1971.
The President of India, Shri Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy in the year 1978 awarded Sangeeth Natak Academy Award
The Post of visiting Professor was given by Tamil Nadu University, Tanjore
The prestigious position of Asthana Vidwan was bestowed on SOMU by the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Aug 12,1987. He was also honoured with the title Isai Arasu.