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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs | Photogallery


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S. P. Balasubrahmanyam was affectionately called ‘Balu’ by his loved ones and film fraternity. SPB was an Indian musician, playback singer, music director, actor, dubbing artist and film producer who worked predominantly in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. He made his singing debut in 1966 and sang over 40,000 songs in as many as 16 languages.

 

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SPB was born in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, into a Telugu Brahmin family. His father, S. P. Sambamurthy, was a Harikatha artist who acted in plays, and his mother was a housewife. He had two brothers and five sisters, including singer S. P. Sailaja.

 

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SPB continued to pursue music during his engineering studies and won awards at singing competitions. In 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organised by the Chennai-based Telugu Cultural Organization. He was the leader of a light music troupe composed of Anirutta (on the harmonium), Ilaiyaraaja (on guitar and later on harmonium), and Baskar (on percussion) and Gangai Amaran (on guitar). He was selected as the best singer in a singing competition judged by S. P. Kodandapani and Ghantasala. Often visiting music composers seeking opportunities, his first audition song was ‘Nilave Ennidam Nerungadhe’. It was rendered by veteran playback singer P. B. Srinivas, who used to write and give him multi-lingual verses in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and Urdu.

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB developed an interest in music at an early age, studied musical notations and learned music. He enrolled at the JNTU College of Engineering Anantapur with the intention of becoming an engineer. He discontinued his studies early due to typhoid and joined as an associate member the Institution of Engineers, Chennai.

 

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB made his debut as a playback singer in the Telugu movie ‘Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna’ (1966). The first non-Telugu song he recorded just eight days after his debut Telugu song was in the Kannada movie ‘Nakkare Ade Swarga’ (1966). He recorded his first Tamil song, “Athaanodu Ippadi Irundhu Eththanai Naalaachu”, a duet with L. R. Eswari for the movie ‘Hotel Rambha’ (1969), which was never released. Other early songs he sang were duets with P. Susheela, “Iyarkai Ennum Ilaya Kanni” in the movie ‘Shanti Nilayam’ (1969), starring Gemini Ganesh, and “Aayiram Nilavae Vaa” for M. G. Ramachandran in ‘Adimai Penn’ (1969). His first song with S. Janaki was “Pournami Nilavil Pani Vizhum Iravil” in ‘Kanni Penn’ (1969). He was then introduced to the Malayalam film industry by G. Devarajan in the movie ‘Kadalpalam’ (1969).

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB had the distinction of rendering the most songs on a single day by any singer. He recorded 21 songs in Kannada for the composer Upendra Kumar in Bangaluru from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm on February 8, 1981, 19 in Tamil and 16 in Hindi in a day. He said, “There were days when I used to record 15–20 songs, but only for Anand Milind. And I would take the last flight back to Chennai.” In the 1970s, he also worked with M. S. Viswanathan in Tamil movies for actors such as M. G. Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan. He recorded duets with P. Susheela, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaram and L. R. Eswari.

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB’s association with Ilaiyaraaja began even before Ilaiyaraaja came into the industry. In the early days, he used to sing in towns and villages all over south India and Ilaiyaraaja, then an unknown harmonium and guitar player accompanied him in his concerts.

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB became international prominence with the movie ‘Sankarabharanam’ (1980). The movie is considered one of the best movies ever to emerge from the Telugu film industry. Directed by K. Vishwanath, the film’s soundtrack was composed by K.V. Mahadevan and led to an increase in the usage of Carnatic music in Telugu cinema and other languages. Not a classically trained singer, he used a film music aesthetic in recording the songs. Balasubrahmanyam received his first National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for his work. His first work in Hindi movies was in the following year, in ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ (1981), for which he received another National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer.

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB began to record more songs in Telugu and other South Indian languages, especially for Ilaiyaraaja with S. Janaki. The trio was considered highly successful in the Tamil film industry from the late 1970s to the 1980s. The songs were based on classical music; ‘Saagara Sangamam’ (1983) and ‘Rudraveena’ (1988), for which both Ilaiyaraaja and Balasubrahmanyam won National Awards for Best Music Director and Best Male Playback Singer, respectively. South Indian actor Chiranjeevi admits that SPB’s voice is one of the main reasons for his success.

(In photo: Pandit Jasraj (L) and noted playback singer S P Balasubrahmanyam (R) take part during the Kopparapu Kavula Kalapeetam National Eminent Award held at Kalabarathi in Visakhapatnam on September 09, 2014.)

 (BCCL)

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#GoldenFrames: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness World Record holder for recording the highest number of songs

SPB was the playback singer for actor Salman Khan in the blockbuster ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (1989). The soundtrack for the movie was a hit, and he won a Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Dil Deewana”. He continued as the “romantic singing voice” on the soundtracks of Khan’s movies. ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!’ (1994) became the highest-grossing Hindi movie of all time. Balasubrahmanyam’s duet with Lata Mangeshkar, “Didi Tera Devar Deewana”, was very popular in the movie. This solidified Balasubrahmanyam as one of the most prominent playback singers in India. He became identified as Salman Khan’s voice in the 90s, just like Kishore Kumar became Rajesh Khanna’s voice through the 70s.

(Playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam with former President Pratibha Patil during Padma Awards 2011 ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.)

 



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