SPB brought Tamil songs closer to Malayalis

He sang over 100 songs in Malayalam too

Updated - September 26, 2020 01:42 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2020 07:44 pm IST - KOZHIKODE

A file photograph of noted singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

A file photograph of noted singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, who died in Chennai on Friday at the age of 74, rendered over 100 songs in Malayalam, and some of them topped the charts too.

But it wasn't those songs that endeared him to music fans here. It was rather his hits in Tamil that made him such a favourite, especially in live shows, across the towns and villages of Kerala.

It, in fact, would be no exaggeration to say that he, along with Ilaiyaraaja, the composer who worked with him most, played a big role in making Tamil songs popular with Malayalis.

Instant hit

Some of the Tamil songs of P. Susheela, who took no time to establish as the leading singer in Malayalam cinema, had attracted the Malayali ear much earlier, but it was with the rise of SPB that the interest grew rapidly.

Yes, A.R. Rahman and Roja made even more people in this part of the world discover Tamil film music in the early 1990s, but Ilaiyaraaja and SPB had already created a base.

Back in the '80s and '90s – when there was no YouTube to keep you entertained with endless streaming of music and that too on mobile phones – the live music shows, or ganamelas, used to be the biggest attractions of festivals at temples or churches.

Every troupe used to have a singer who specialised in singing SPB’s songs – often the foot-tapping ones – and if they didn't have, they would borrow someone from another troupe.

Then, in 1980, came Sankarabharanam. The unlikely box-office winner about classical music and dance saw SPB in a new light. His songs, like Sankara nadasareera para..., Omkara nadanu.. , and Dorakuna ituvanti seva ..., also introduced many a Malayali to Carnatic music.

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In Malayalam

At a time when K.J. Yesudas and P. Jayachandran reigned supreme, music directors in Malayalam cinema rarely needed to look for a male voice elsewhere. Still, SPB could boast a sizeable number of hits in Malayalam, too.

He had made a sparkling debut under the baton of G. Devarajan, the greatest composer in Malayalam, for the 1969 film Kadalpalam . Ee kadalum... was a fine song too, but it was overshadowed by the film's other songs Ujjayiniyile gaayika... (P. Leela) and the Kasthoori thailamittu... (Madhuri).

His popular songs in Malayalam include Tharapatham...(Anaswaram), Ootti pattanam... (Kilukkam), Kakkala Kannamma... (Yathramozhi) and Manje vaa.. (Thusharam).

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