Balusubrahmanyam took to singing as a hobby during his childhood. He developed an interest in music very early in his life, and had studied notations and learnt to play instruments such as harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father.He is also a classical singer,learnt classics in his early childhood with his mothers co operation. He refines in carnatic music. His father wanted Balu to become an engineer; this brought him to Ananthpur, where he enrolled for the Engineering course in JNTU. Later he discontinued the course due to typhoid and then joined AMIE. Meanwhile, he also pursued his hobby and won awards at many singing competitions. There he was identified as a good singer in annual college programmes where he used to sing. Some friends recommended that he sing in Madras and provided him with referrals.
In 1964, a Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation, organized a music competition for amateur singers. Balu won the first prize, and that proved a turning point in his life. Music director SP Kodandapani took him under his wing. Offers then poured in from Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam movies.
Before he became a full fledged cinema singer, SPB was the leader of a light music troupe that comprising
- Anirutta, who was working in Corporation and was the harmonium artist
- Ilaiyaraaja who joined the group as Guitarist and then moved over to harmonium after Anirutta became busy in his regular job
- Baskar, Ilaiyaraaja’s brother who was in charge of Percussion
- Gangai Amaran another brother of Ilaiyaraaja who was the Guitarist after Ilaiyaraaja moved over to Harmonium
Balasubrahmanyam made his debut in film music as a singer in Dec 15,1966 with Sri Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna, a film scored by his mentor Kodandapani. He has sung more than 40,000 songssince in more than 5 different Indian languages including Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam. He holds the world record in the Guinness for having sung the most number of song recordings by any singer (the record for a female singer is held by Lata Mangeshkar).
A gifted singer, he is highly regarded for his incredible vocal range, deep rich voice, and mastery of style, technique and control. These qualities allowed him expression across various genres of Indian music, and he has been highly sought after by many of India’s film music composers. His approach to singing is methodical; he perseveres to understand the full meaning of the songs that he sings (many of which are very poetic) and the settings in which these songs are couched in order to most effectively match their requirements with his vocal delivery.S.P.B., though was very young, started singing for many different language films. As he became very busy, at times he used to sing even 17 songs in 12 hours at the recording theatre. He has also sung in Sanskrit and some regard his pronunciation of this language to be very good. Most of the introduction songs in Chiranjeevi and Rajinkanth films are sung by SPB only. Most people feel that Balasubrahmanyam’s voice most suits Kamal Haasan. Sometimes, people cannot even figure out if it is Kamal singing or Balu singing or even Kamal talking or Balu talking. In the case of Telugu movies, he just changes his voice to suit the hero acting in the film. For eg., Nagarjuna, his dad Akkineni Nageswara Rao, N.T.R., Krishna and many others.
He has performed both the popular and classical music of India. For example, the songs he performed in the films Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam, Rudra Veena were based on Carnatic classical music, and the song Umandu Ghumandu in the movie Ganayogi Panchakshari Gavayi was based on Hindustani classical music.Many used to say that “He has a classical mist” but he never took the credit for classics saying he is just a newborn in classics as its a vast ocean & he just had a mouthful of it.
He virtually monopolised playback singing for more than 30 years in the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil cinema. His contemporary Dr. K.J.Yesudas monopolised the Malayalam music industry. SPB sang only a few songs in Malayalam. Although Yesudas’ voice was regarded more suitable for sad songs in Tamil, SPB has also sung some evergreen sad songs in Tamil such as ‘Naanum unthen uravai’,’Nenjukkulle’ and ‘Kuyilappudichu’. He hosts a popular TV show in Telugu called Paadutha Theeyaga on E-TV, Paadalani Undi on MAA-TV , and a kannada show Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu on ‘E-TV Kannada’ and Tamil show ‘Ennodu Paattu Paadungal’ on JAYA-TV. He also anchors a music show called “Sunada Vinodini” in TTD Channel.