Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam born 4 June 1946, is an Indian film playback singer, actor, music director, voice actor and film producer. He is mostly referred to as S. P. B. or Balu. He has won the Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs. He won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer six times and the Nandi Awards in Telugu cinema 25 times from the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
He has recorded over 40,000 songs in various Indian languages. He has won National Film Awards across four languages as well as a Filmfare Award, five South Filmfare Awards and numerous state awards from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. He is a recipient of civilian awards such as Padmashri (2001) and Padma Bhushan (2011) from the government of India.
Early life and background
Balasubrahmanyam was born to S. P. Sambamurthy in Konetampet village, Pallipattu, of present-day Tiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu, then in Madras Presidency, India. Balasubrahmanyam’s father was a Harikatha artiste who had also acted in plays. He has two brothers and five sisters, including singer S.P. Sailaja.
Balasubrahmanyam developed an interest towards music at an early age, studied notations and learned to play instruments such as the harmonium and flute on his own while listening to his father. He enrolled at JNTU College of Engineering Anantapur with the intention of becoming an engineer. He discontinued his studies early due to typhoid and joined as an Associate Member of the Institution of Engineers, Chennai.
He continued to pursue music during his engineering studies and won awards at singing competitions. In 1964, he won the first prize in a music competition for amateur singers organised by the Madras-based Telugu Cultural Organisation. He was the leader of a light music troupe composed of Anirutta (on the harmonium), Ilaiyaraaja (on guitar and later on harmonium), Baskar (on percussion), and Gangai Amaran (on guitar). He was selected as the best singer in a singing competition which was judged by S. P. Kodandapani and Ghantasala. Often visiting music composers seeking opportunities, his first audition song was “Nilave Ennidam Nerungadhe”. It was rendered by veteran playback singer P. B. Srinivas, who used to write and give him multi-lingual verses in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and Urdu.