As the sonorous voice rang out inside the crowded auditorium, a collective cheer erupted from the eager throng. The king of playback had begun what would turn out to be a memorable evening for a packed audience at the Newington High School in Connecticut on Sunday, 8th October 2006. With wonderful accompaniment from his orchestra, S P Balasubrahmanyam went into his usual flourishes and variations in the Chandramukhi song keeping us thoroughly entertained.
In his welcome message to the audience, who had gathered for the annual Connecticut Tamil Sangam Deepavali Celebrations, I was stunned to find that he had sung 36000 songs in his lifetime over a career spanning almost 40 years! He turned 60 in June this year, but when he started the next song with a soft and melodious “Ilaiya Nila” (Payanangal Mudivathillai), the crowd again went crazy – this sounded nothing like a 60-year old’s voice and it was difficult to believe he had just performed at another concert in New Jersey just a couple of days back and even though he mentioned he had a bad throat, listening to his voice, we could only wonder what his good days must sound like!
He then went on to perform various songs from his vast repertoire including “Sundari, Kannaal Oru Sedhi”(Thalapati), the magical “Sippi Irukkudhu Muthum Irukkudhu”(Varumayin Niram Sivappu) and the ultra-melodic “Malare Mounama” (Karna).
Sometimes, even more interesting than the songs themselves were some of the comments and informational tidbits from SPB. For example, apparently Thalapathi’s “Sundari” was performed using RD Burman’s orchestra in Mumbai and after just the first few notes, the musicians simply laid down their instruments to applaud the genius that is Ilaiyaraja.
He also mentioned the magnanimous gesture of MGR who waited almost a month for SPB’s typhoid illness to subside so he could record “Aayiram Nilave Vaa”(Adimaippen). You can read the whole story on Saravanan’s page on Dhool.
Exhausted by the strain, yet filled with happiness, SPB gathered the courage to ask MGR why had they waited for him, for with the shooting schedule already set, the movie had now got unnecessarily delayed. MGR’s gentle reply was he had waited for SPB to recover, because this was SPB’s first big break, and SPB must have already informed his family and friends proudly that he was singing for MGR. After all this, if the song was sung by someone else, SPB might become the object of their derision. And more important, his career would be in jeopardy as word may go around that his singing was not satisfactory and that was why he was replaced. Words failed SPB as he stood choked with emotion at the large-heartedness of MGR; his eyes brimmed with tears of gratitude. A smiling MGR shook his hands, and took leave of SPB, wishing him well in his future endeavours. To this day SPB salutes the memory of the charismatic leader with admiration and love.
Read the full story (scroll down to the section “Song # 3: aayiram nilavE vaa from adimaippen”) and even listen to the song on this page.
-Via SPB 60
When he broke into “Aayiram Nilave Vaa” after this touching tribute to MGR, we could appreciate the song even more.
SPB placed his tongue firmly in cheek when he commented about the sorry state of affairs with some of today’s music – “Ippo vara paatungala kaetta – idhu padathula illenaalum periya loss-illennu thonum” he said slyly (Listening to some of the newly composed songs, one ends up thinking it would be no great loss if they didn’t feature in the movie!)
SP Shailaja sang a few numbers too including the beauifully composed “Ninaithu Ninaithu” (7G Rainbow Colony – SPB made a special mention of YSR’s upcoming talent) although at high pitches one could detect the strain in her voice. But the real stealers of he show after SPB were the two newcomers – Mallikarjun and Gopika.
Mallikarjun really did a great job with songs like “Uyire”(Bombay) and “Appadi Podu”(Gillie) (and yes, he did a mean dance on stage too, getting the audience up on their feet!), while Gopika startled us with her lovely accompaniment to “Sippi Irukkudhu” – even though SPB ragged her quite a bit on stage. When she said “Ippo Paarkalaam – Thanana nana nana”, SPB responded with “I am an old fellow trying to sing with a bad throat, why challenge me with ‘Ippo Paarkalaam?’!”
In the obligatory other-language-songs category came the Telugu “Shankara”(Shankarabharanam) and “Malli Malli” (Raakshasudu), the Hindi “Tere Mere Beech Mein”, SPB’s national award winning effort from K Balachandar’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye and a Malayalam song (I think it went “Ee Kadalum Maru Kadalum” – not sure of the movie, but SPB did give thanks to Devarajan Master for helping him along in his career).
Watching and listening to SPB brought back a flood of memories for me as he has always held a special place in my heart since I ws a young kid. My all-time favorite song is “Bharathi Kannamma” from “Ninaithaale Inikkum” and over the years I grew up mesmerized by his obvious mastery over the art of konjifying (I still can’t a proper English word for this – coddling, maybe?) – especially obvious in songs like “Malare Mounama”. My other favorites include “Manadhil Enna Ninaivugalo” (Poonthalir) and “Kamban Emaandhaan”(Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu).
Full List of songs performed (most of these can be found on Raaga for download for a small fee):
- Athindhom – Chandramukhi
- Ilaiya Nila – Payanangal Mudivathillai
- Sangeetha Megam – Udhaya Geetham
- Ninaithu Ninaithu – 7G Rainbow Colony
- Shankara – Shankarabharanam (Telugu)
- Sundari – Thalapathi
- Tere Mere Beech Mein – Ek Duuje Ke Liye (Hindi)
- Uyire – Bombay
- Malli Malli – Raakshasudu (Telugu)
- Sippi Irukkudhu Muthum Irukkudhu (Special twist: Mayakkam Thandadhu Yaar? Kaviyo, MSV-yo, Kannadasano!)
- Mannil Indha Kaadhal – Keladi Kanmani
- Koncha Neram – Chandramukhi
- Jeeva Veene Needu Miditada Sangeeta – GeetaPriya (Kannada)
- Aamani Paadave – Geethanjali (Telugu)
- Devuda Devuda – Chandramukhi
- Kurukku Siruthavalae – Muthalvan
- Kadavul Amaithu Vaitha Medai – Aval Oru Thodar Kathai – I have to mention here that SPB did ALL the mimicry by himself – listen to it and you will realise what an effort it can be! Simply a splendid performance!
- Ovvoru Pookalume – Autograph
- Aayiram Nilave Vaa – Adimaippen (like I mentioned above, after his glowing tribute to MGR’s magnanimity, this song had an even greater effect)
- Ee Kadalum – (Malayalam)
- Appadi Podu – Gillie (Mallikarjun did a better kuthu on stage than most dance masters I have seen!)
- Malare Mounama – Karna
- Finally with a mention of the obvious fact that it would be impossible to sing all of his favorties in one evening, SPB entertained us to a medley of some of all his alltime hits (just the first couple of lines in rapid succession):
- Avaloru Navarasa Naadagam – Ulagam Suttrum Vaaliban
- Pottu Vaitha Mugamo – Sumathi En Sundari
- Ae Aatha Aathorama – Payanangal Mudivathillai
- Andhi Mazhai – Raja Paarvai
- Ilamayenum Poongaattre – Pagalil Oru Iravu
- Kamban Emandhaan (Aah!) – Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu
- Nilaave Vaa – Mouna Raagam
- Aayarpadi Maaligayil (No better lullaby on this planet, I say!)
- Enna Satham indha Neram – Punnagai Mannan
- Ore Naal Unnai Naan – Ilamai Oonjalaadukirathu
- Mandram Vandha Thendralukku – Mouna Ragam
- Vannam Konda – Sigaram
- Oruvan Oruvan Muthalaali – Muthu
The evening was wrapped up with a musical instrument medley from the orchestra as they went around inturn displaying their prowess. The tabla, flute and bass guitars were particularly good.
An autographed program guide from the king himself and the last strains of his booming voice still echoing in my ear are all I have left of a thoroughly satisfying and memorable evening.
Here’s wishing him many more years of successful singing!
[tags]SPB Concert, S P Balasubrahmanyam, Connecticut Tamil Sangam[/tags]