City of Destiny grieves SPB’s demise

Connoisseurs of music recall their association with the legendary playback singer

Published - September 25, 2020 10:53 pm IST - B. Madhu Gopal

Melodious memories:  S.P. Balasubrahmanyam releasing a commemorative volume on Sri Raja Lakshmi Foundation founder-trustee P.V. Ramanaiah Raja in the city.

Melodious memories: S.P. Balasubrahmanyam releasing a commemorative volume on Sri Raja Lakshmi Foundation founder-trustee P.V. Ramanaiah Raja in the city.

The death of legendary playback singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam evoked grief from various sections of people in the city. Connoisseurs of music recalled their association with ‘Balu’, as he was popularly known, during his innumerable visits to the City of Destiny.

SPB visited the city for several years to participate in the annual programmes organised by Perini Chanukya Memorial Cultural Trust, run by his friend Yugandhar.

“I was asked to preside over a function held at the VUDA Children’s Theatre (old) in 1995, in which Balu was the chief guest. It was suffocating in the hall on that day and he announced a donation of ₹10,000 on the spot for provision of AC. That was my first meeting with Balu and after that we used to meet regularly, whenever he came to the city to participate in various functions,” recalls Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar, former Rector of Andhra University.

“We used to meet at the Raja Lakshmi Foundation Awards, which used to be held in the city. In 2007, I was elected president of the Visakha Music Academy. I suggested that light music should be included in the category. The first award was given to Rao Balasaraswathi and the next one went to S.P. Balasubrahmanyam.”

Prof. Prasanna Kumar recalls: “Our intimacy grew and we used to share messages and jokes. In August, 2018, I had organised the Ramanaiah Raja Memorial Lecture in Visakhapatnam and asked SPB to be the chief guest. Though he was hesitant at first, saying he can only sing, I had convinced him and he spoke for about an hour at stretch.”

SPB exuded confidence, when he sent me an SMS on August 10, saying he would return home soon. He had vast knowledge but was very humble. “I have never seen such gaiety and spontaneity in anyone else,” Prof. Prasanna Kumar said.

“I grew up listening to SPB’s songs as he had began his singing career in 1966 and I was born in 1967. I wrote a song on ‘ Visakha Vaibhavam’ for ‘Padutha Theeyaga’ finals held in Visakhapatnam in 1998 and he sang it. He sang the songs, written by me, on doctors and policemen as COVID-19 warriors. He introduced me to K. Viswanath. He wrote the foreword for some of my books and unveiled some of them,” recalls Ramabhatla Nrusimha Sarma, AIR Announcer and popular commentator.

His ‘Guntalakidi gumma...’ in ‘Nenante Nene’ (1968) brought a new and racy touch to playback singing. SPB went on to sing several catchy numbers for hero Krishna in crime thrillers. Another facet of the singer captured the listeners with his rendering of ‘Ee divilo virisina....’ (Kannevayasu).

He soon got an opportunity to sing with Ghantasala mastaru, as he fondly called the legendary singer, ‘ Pratiratri vasantaratri...’ acclaimed for its lyrical excellence in ‘Ekaveera(1969).’

Interestingly, some of his evergreen songs like in ‘Chillara Devullu’ or ‘Kokilamma’ are not for big heroes. His solos in ‘ Pantulamma’ are soulful renderings in his inimitable style and the duet ‘Manasaveena....’ is acclaimed, he said.

Andhra University Vice-Chancellor P.V.G.D. Prasad Reddy expressed grief at the passing away of legendary singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. He will remain etched in the memories of people through his songs.

He recalled that AU honoured him with the honorary doctorate ‘Kalaprapoorna’ in 2009.

The Corporate Communications Department of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) had organised the finals of the popular programme ‘Padalani Undi’ at the Ukkunagaram Club on August 15, 2006.

Y. Siva Sagar Rao, then then CMD, along with his wife Chinnamma Sagar, felicitated SPB. Balu sang a song written by Nandakishore, an officer of the VSP. He lauded the VSP for promoting Indian culture, recalls Dwaram Swamy of VSP.

CPI(M) district committee secretary K. Lokanadham expressed shock at the death of SPB. He recalled the singer’s association with the city and the song sung by him for Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. BJP leader Cheruvu Ramakotaiah expressed shock and said that Balu had sang over 40,000 songs in 16 Indian languages. He expressed his condolences to the bereaved family members.

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