I don't remember when I became his fan. I don't think it matters. Just like the Maestro Ilayaraja, the golden voice of SPB has a song for every mood, every feeling of mine at every stage of my life. As I started to delve more into music with a rudimentary understanding of the nitty-gritties, I started to understand, as a result, get floored in the way he used his voice to evoke the very specific emotion in his songs. His range is phenomenal. There are certain sangathi_s the variations in the songs that he embellishes in songs that would be very minute but would scale up the song to a whole different level. Some of his most well-known improvisations are the slight giggles he gives in a song (Listen to _Pani Vizhum Malarvanam) or the rap-like "Reeba-raaba-ribap" in songs like Sakalakala vallavan. I would like you all to listen to a select few songs that I have handpicked to give you a tiny glimpse into the versatility of his singing prowess.
Junior Junior (Iru Manam Konda): Along with the mellifluous lead track, he also sang the portions of the robotic voice of the puppet.
Sangeetha Jaathi mullai: This is one of the toughest songs ever composed. With the strong lyrics, rousing score by the Maestro and SPB at his very best, this song would tell you why he is unparalleled.
En jodi Manja kuruvi: This is one of my all-time favourites when it comes to getting lost in the range and versatility of his voice. You would be surprised to know that the initial gibberish in the baritone register was sung by SPB himself!
Sorgam Madhuvile: A go-to pub/club party song of those days. Just listen to how SPB brings in "Yahoo" and "yeehee" and his signature "Reeba raaba" in this thumping number.
Vanthanam en Vanthanam: This is essentially a song like Kolaveri. Kamal Hassan is getting lost in the booze and he breaks into a song in the movie. Now, it's one thing to act like a drunkard and a completely different ball game to sing like one. Listen to his hiccoughs at the end of each charanam and you'll know what I mean. Not to forget the emphasis on the syllable that goes "rum" at the end of the anupallavi, this is an absolute treat to SPB connoisseurs!
Kadavul amaithu vaitha medai: This is a unique song. It is a marriage song and a love failure song. And get this, the whole song is written like it's happening in a forest. Along with the voice artist greats like Sai Baba, SPB brought a lot of flavour and unforgettable texture to this song by giving his mimicry inputs. Don't miss this!
Satham illatha thanimai and Mannil intha kaathal: We know about the "Breathless" song of Shankar Mahadevan. Did you know there are not one, but two such songs from SPB? Though the legend has never accepted the fact that he sang these songs in one breath, the range of the former and the "voice-acting" in the latter are proof of his multi-faceted voice.
Ilamai idho idho: This is the song you must listen to when you want to see how far SPB can go with his voice. Set to a bouncy score from the Maestro, SPB just nails every portion of this song. There is no radio house in Tamil Nadu that has not played this song for the New Year.
Starwars: This song from Anjali by Mani Ratnam is where Ilaiyaraja and SPB went totally crazy! You won't be able to recognize that it's SPB who has sung this song.
En kadhale En kadhale: With this song, I cover the three greatest musicians of Tamil Cinema that SPB has collaborated with: MS Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraja and ARR. This love ballad, with the genius of Kadiri Gopalnath and SPB's range, would melt your heart and get you reaching for the tissues.
Dear SPB, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I made this list just to give my fellow human beings a glimpse of what all you have done. I didn't even venture into the dubbing that you have done for almost every Kamal Hassan film that got dubbed into Telugu. I haven't even scratched the surface of your acting in some of the beloved and memorable films like Sigaram, Kadhalan, Priyamaanavale and so on. You are truly a multi-faceted personality. We love you. We miss you. Come back, SPB sir!!
Pranay Sai Writes:
Happy Birthday SPB Sir. When he was alive itself, Balasubhramanyam Garu achieved immortality. The reason we all know – his stunning discography. Like all legends, Balu Garu reinvented himself continuously to stay on in the minds of the people, especially the younger generation.
Some songs that are regulars in my playlist are Muvvala Navvakala from Pournami (2006), Jaruguthunnadi Jagannatakam from Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum (2012), O Naadu Washington Lo from Greekuveerudu (2013), Chennai Express Title Song (2013) and the remix of Nuvvu Naatho Em Annavo from Disco Raja (2020). All these songs were chartbusters. If you have not noticed, these are just 5 songs from 2006 onwards. This is not even a fraction of his impressive discography which began from the 1960s onwards.
In case you want to check them out, here are the links to them:
Muvvala Navakala -
Jaruguthunnadi Jagannatakam - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DPs-D-hy0I
O Naadu Washington Lo - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNvFFvm_eM
Chennai Express Title Song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzFrmipJ1V8
Nuvvu Naatho Emannavo - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuP88SiW-7Y
Balu Garu was also a wonderful actor. I remember seeing this movie Midhunam (2012) about an old couple’s everyday life played by Balu Garu and Lakshmi Garu. The USP of this film is that there are just two actors in the whole movie – Balu Garu and Lakshmi Garu. Their chemistry is simply wonderful to watch. The music industry’s gain was the acting fraternity’s loss.
The facet that I loved most about Balu Sir was him being the judge on the reality singing show Paadutha Teeyaga. I used to watch along with my parents. At first, I was not interested much in it. But later, it grew on me for one reason – Balu Sir. We can learn constructive criticism from that show. The way he used to encourage the participants, make them see where they were wrong, guide them and give tips on how to sing and live was wonderful and surprising for me. This was because whichever reality show I had seen till then involved a lot of drama and shouting. But Paadutha Teeyaga was nothing like that. It was beautiful because a beautiful soul was its main attraction. Now without him, it will feel incomplete.
Balu Sir will be sorely missed for his music. But then he will be also missed for his acting prowess and for the kind of human being he was. Happy Birthday once again Balu Sir.
Jamuratiri jabilamma is one of my favourite song which keeps me relaxed all the time. Instantly recognisable as SPB is a singer by happy accident who has no music influence in his life and had no training but won a singing competition in his college when his friend dragged him into singing a song. His versatile voice could go low for older men, higher pitches for younger men, he can be soulful, moody, dramatic and jaunty as well depending on what the scene demanded. This particular song Jamuratiri Jabilamma has its own set of high notes, a mix of string and bass instruments and it requires a soothing and pleasant voice for which SPB has completely justified it. The musical jasmine won’t be around but the fragrance will remain in the air. The musical sun may not rise again but the rays of warm music are always felt around his songs. Happy birthday!!
I know it's difficult to point out from the countless songs that the legend has lent his mellifluous voice to. More so when the list includes songs like Andamaina Premarani, Swathilo muthyamantha, Abbanee teeyani debba, bangaru Kodi petta, ee Peta ku nene meestri, Chiluka kshemama, suvvi suvvi suvvalamma and the list can go on to eternity.
My favourite song however is Thakita thadimi from Sagara Sangamam composed by Maestro Ilayaraja. This song has a little bit of a classical touch and also needs to be sung by a drunkard dancing in the rain. I do not know how you can achieve both of them while singing it. I am no singer but I think it would be difficult to achieve that balance as I have heard a lot of classical singers. The lyrics are also not ordinary, they contain some heavy words & phrases with deep meaning. Mispronouncing them a bit here and there would not give the essence of the song correctly. Therefore, you need to sound like a drunkard dancing in the rain and also clearly enunciate each and every word from the lyric clearly. In fact, that is one quality that I have always admired in SPB Sir, he sings like the character and presents the mood of the song in his tonalities that even though you do not watch the video, you get a hint of the character's emotional beats based on how he is singing.
Happy Birthday SPB Sir.