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SP Balasubrahmanyam - Legendary Indian Film Singer

He is a legend in Indian Film Music Industry. With a vast experience of over 40 years in the film industry, he sang over 36000 songs so far in over 10 languages. He is going to be in Denver to perform a live musical show on this Sunday. He is none other than Padmashri Dr. SP Balasubramanyam.

Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam is a prolific Indian singer and actor born in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh in India in 1946. He is also known as SPB and Balu in the media.

Early life and background

Balasubrahmanyam was born into an Orthodox Telugu family in Konetammapeta near Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. He is the second son in a family of three sons and five daughters. His father S. P. Sambamurthy was a well-known exponent of Harikatha and his sister S.P. Sailaja is a former actress-singer in Tollywood, married to another actor Subhalekha Sudhakar. He has a daughter, Pallavi and son, S. P. Charan.

Career

Balusubrahmanyam took to singing as a hobby during his childhood. He developed an interest in music very early in his life, and had studied notations and learnt to play instruments such as harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father. His father wanted Balu to become an engineer; this brought him to Ananthpur, where he enrolled for the Engineering course in JNTU. Later he discontinued the course due to typhoid and then joined AMIE. Meanwhile, he also pursued his hobby and won awards at many singing competitions. There he was identified as a good singer in annual college programs where he uses to sing. Some friends recommended that he sing in Madras and provided him with referrals.

In 1964, a Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organization organized a music competition for amateur singers. Balu won the first prize, and that proved a turning point in his life. Music director SP Kodandapani took him under his wing. Offers then poured in from Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam movies.

Before he became a full fledged cinema singer, SPB was the leader of a light music troupe that comprising

  • Anirutta, who was working in Corporation and was the harmonium artist
  • Ilaiyaraaja who joined the group as Guitarist and then moved over to harmonium after Anirutta became busy in his regular job
  • Baskar, Ilaiyaraaja's brother who was in charge of Percussion
  • Gangai Amaran another brother of Ilaiyaraaja who was the Guitarist after Ilaiyaraaja moved over to Harmonium

    Playback Singing

    Balasubrahmanyam made his debut in film music as a singer in Dec 15,1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a film scored by his mentor Kodandapani. He has sung more than 40,000 songs since in more than 5 different Indian languages including Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. He holds the world record in the Guinness for having sung the most number of song recordings by any singer (the record for a female singer is held by Lata Mangeshkar).

    A gifted singer, he is highly regarded for his incredible vocal range, deep rich voice, and mastery of style, technique and control. These qualities allowed him expression across various genres of Indian music, and he has been highly sought after by many of India's film music composers. His approach to singing is methodical; he perseveres to understand the full meaning of the songs that he sings (many of which are very poetic) and the settings in which these songs are couched in order to most effectively match their requirements with his vocal delivery. S.P.B., though was very young, started singing for many different language films. As he became very busy, at times he used to sing even 17 songs in 12 hours at the recording theatre. He has also sung in Sanskrit and some regard his pronunciation of this language to be very good. Most of the introduction songs in Chiranjeevi and Rajinkanth films are sung by SPB only. Most people feel that Balu's voice most suits Kamal Haasan. Sometimes, people cannot even figure out if it is Kamal singing or Balu singing or even Kamal talking or Balu talking.

    He has performed both the popular and classical music of India. For example, the songs he performed in the films Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Rudra Veena were based on Carnatic classical music, and the song Umandu Ghumandu in the movie Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi was based on Hindustani classical music.

    He virtually monopolized playback singing for more than 30 years in the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil cinema. His contemporary Dr. K.J.Yesudas monopolized the Malayalam music industry. SPB sang only a few songs in Malayalam. Although Yesudas' voice was regarded more suitable for sad songs in Tamil, SPB has also sung some evergreen sad songs in Tamil such as 'Naanum unthen uravai', 'Nenjukkulle' and 'Kuyilappudichu'. He hosts a popular TV show in Telugu called Paadutha Theeyaga on E-TV, Paadalani Undi on MAA-TV , and a Kannada show Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu on 'E-TV Kannada' and Tamil show 'Ennodu Paattu Paadungal' on JAYA-TV.

    Achievements

  • Has recorded over 38,000 plus songs in a span of 40 years, which include film songs and devotional numbers recorded by various recording companies of the country. It's a world record which will be soon entering into the Guinness Book of World Records
  • Has recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangalore from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on February 8, 1981 which is a record.
  • Has recorded 19 songs in Tamil in a day, and 16 songs in Hindi in a day, which is a notable achievement.

    He has also acted in several movies in full-fledged protagonist roles or in cameo roles. And is also an anchor for a Telugu TV program by name "Paaduthaa Theeyaga". Recently, on MAA TV, he hosted a children's singing show called 'Paadalanivundhi', which gained a lot of popularity and brought talent from all over Andhra Pradesh.

    He is now preparing for another TV show in Telugu named 'Sunaadha Vinodhini' on Bhakthi Channel, where he will be exploring more into the devotional side.

    Dubbing career

    Balu has also given voice for various artists like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Bhagyaraj, Mohan, Girish Karnad, Gemini Ganesh, Nagesh, Karthik, Raghuvaran, Vinodkumar etc. SPB was the default dubbing artist for Kamal Hasan's Telugu movies, dubbed from Tamil.

    Trivia

  • In the early 90's S.P.B. did many Bollywood assignments in Hindi. Composers like Ram-Laxman & Nadeem-Shravan regarded his voice perfect for Salman Khan.
  • Besides playback singing, SPB is also the chairman of Kodandapani Audio Labs, Chennai.
  • In the 80's & early 90's S.P.B. worked with composers like Laxmikant Pyarelal, R.D.Burman, Bappi Lahiri, Anand Milind, Nadeem Shravan, Raam Laxman, A.R. Rehman, Anu Malik, Jatin Lalit, M.M.Keervani, Naushad, O.P.Nayyar, Nikhil Vinay, Ravindra Jain & many others.
  • He sang for Salman Khan, Kamal Hassan, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Sanjay Dutt, Vinod Khanna and Akshay Kumar.
  • He sang for more than 170+ films & 1 Private Album in Hindi.

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