SP Balasubrahmanyam and his music touched the lives of countless people, including Indian football legend and current Indian national team assistant coach Shanmugam Venkatesh — who pays tribute to the maestro after his tragic demise on Friday (September 25, 2020).
Artists may die but their art lives on forever. SP Balasubrahmanyam is one such icon, whose work has had such a profound impact on my life and I’m sure — on millions of others.
Every day of my career, earlier as a player and now as a coach, I have not gone to bed before listening to an SBP song and throughout the journey, his compositions have been a source of continuous inspiration. And they shall continue to remain so.
As I still process his tragic death, it fills me with so much sadness as I realize that he is no longer among us. My mind goes back to three years ago when I had the honour of meeting him. It was only for a short time but that moment will stay with me forever.
I just said “hello” and told him that I am a football player. He always appreciated sports and athletes a lot — his fondness for Sachin Tendulkar and how he sponsored a teenaged Viswanathan Anand are just a few examples. He smiled warmly and as he shook my hand, he said “that’s very good.” That handshake was a truly surreal moment for me and will always remain a simply unforgettable memory.
His songs have been my guiding light for as long as I can remember. During the difficult days when I was struck with injury, listening to SBP’s melodies would help me recover and come back stronger.
After a disappointing defeat or bad performance on the field, I would turn to his music to recharge myself and get ready for the next game. Even in joy and victory, his songs would drive me to keep pushing the envelope and give my best. Such is the beauty of his music — they were a motivation during all times, no matter the situation.
For me, it is impossible to even think of picking a favourite song of his. He has a song for every mood and be it in any tongue — Telugu, Kannada, Tamil or Hindi — the magic in each of his tracks remains just the same. They are all extremely close to my heart. His music truly knows no language.
Whenever there was an SPB concert in Bengaluru and I was in town, there was no chance I was going to miss it. I’ve even travelled specially to Chennai and Hyderabad — just to watch the maestro perform live. The total number of concerts attended comes to seven or eight, but I just could never get enough. How I wish I could see him live one more time.
As an artist, he was second to none but there are so many other qualities of his that I draw a lot of inspiration from. His dedication to his craft and the hard work he put in on a daily basis is just something else.
He has sung over 40,000 songs — a feat that is in the Guinness Book of World Records. He even recorded an incredible 21 songs in a single day, such were his commitment levels. He was right at the top of his industry for over four decades and even at the age of 74, he was as devoted as he was at the start of his career.
Another aspect of his personality that stands out is his humility. He achieved so much in his career and yet he never showed off. I have never seen a humble person in my life than him. Apart from his songs, his talks and interviews — where he would give valuable points about life, were so inspirational. He was not just a singer, he was an advisor to the public.
His demise leaves a huge void in the lives of all his fans — in India and across the world. However, his soulful voice and melodies shall live forever for generations to come and continue to be a guiding light. Rest in peace, sir!
(Shanmugam Venkatesh; as told to Shraishth Jain / AIFF Media)