Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Two Mighty Voices and Their Voice Alikes.

     There were days when only native singers used to sing Tamil film songs and some of the singers were primarily actors and then singers.This is how the centre stage of Tamil film music was dominated and enriched by many, great film personalities like the actor singers M.K.Thiagaraja Baghavadhar, P.U.Chinnappa,T.R.Mahalingam, and the musical monarchs like T.M.Soundarajan, Sirkazhi Govindarajan,Thiruchi Loganadhan and Chidambaram Jeyaraman among men and the most illustrious women singers like M.S.Subbulakshmi,D.K.Pattammaal and K.B.Sundaraambaal. Then came an amazing line of fascinating singers who were not natives of Tamil Nadu but who could steal the hearts of the audience by their effective rendition of  Tamil film songs.The list would include great singers like A.M.Raja,Ghantasaalaa,P.B.Srinivas,Dr.Balamurali Krishna, P.Susila, Jikki,S.Janaki and so on.Music lovers and film fans in Tamil Nadu were under the spell of these wonderful voices.
     As the Tamil film industry began to grow in leaps and bounds,more and more fresh talents began to occupy the field of Tamil film music.Heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan whose voices were genuinely identified with that of T.M.Soundarajan,when it came to song sequences in their films, mooted a change either intentionally, or as a mark of transition and as a result of this, the voice of TMS was replaced by two fresh voices, that were destined to rule Tamil film music for long.The two mighty voices belong to K.J.Yesudas and S.P.Balasubramanyan.
      In terms of time of entry into Tamil Cinema,K.J.Yesudas is senior to SPB. The song 'Neeyum Bommai Naanum Bommai' had already become popular leaving a mark of identity for Yesudas. But he laid his footing firmly in Tamil cinema only after he delivered the most popular songs like 'Adhisaya Raagam,Aaanandha Raagam' and 'Dheivam Thandha Veedu Veedhiyirukku' from the films Aboorva Raagangal and Aval Oru Thodarkadhai both directed by the most esteemed K.Balachander. But for SPB, the beginning itself was well marked and the very first song Aayiram Nilave Vaa was for the gigantic MGR film Adimaipenn. Of course,during the same time he became popular with the other,first recorded, mesmerizing song 'Iyarkaiyennum Ilayakanni' from the thriller film Santhi Nilayam and both these were duets, in association with P.Suseela. MGR began to simultaneously utilize the captivating voices of these two singers.
    It is a known fact that MGR was always very particular about the quality and richness of musical component of his films.That MGR endorsed the incomparable talent of these mighty singers and that these valued voices contributed significantly for the success of MGR films like Urimakkural, Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban,Netru Inru Naalai,Sirithu Vaazha Vendum, Pallaandu Vaazhga , Naalai Namadhe and Needhikku Thalavanangu,became remarkable events in Tamil Cinema.Songs like 'Avaloru Navarasa Naadagam', 'AngeVaruvadhu Yaaro Adhu Vasandhathin Theiro' and 'Paadumpothu Naan Thenral Kaatru' from the first two films and the title song from Naalai Namadhe,breezily and powerfully delivered by SPB and 'Vizhiye Kadhayezhudhu'{Urimaikkural} 'Onre Kulamenru''Poivaa Nadhiyalaiye'{ Pallaandu Vazhga},Neela Nayanangalil'{Naalai Namadhe] and 'Indha Pachaikilikkoru' {Needhikku Thalaivanangu} in the gripping voice of Yesudas, remain as the richest legacy of MGR film songs.
      The musical voices of these men contain an independently penetrating charm with a classic structure of clarity,vibration and width.There is a kind of spiritual grandeur in the voice of Yesudas that keeps him endowed with a calibre for dignified delivery of music.I still wonder how he was able to deliver a song like 'Thanni Thotti Thedivandha Kannukutti Naan' for K.Balachander's other critically viewed film Sindhu Bhairavi. The voice of Yesudas is imbibed with an unbeatable soothing profile and it can straight away pierce into one's soul with a kind of intimate access that no other voice is capable of.The musical nuances forming part of this sacred voice belong to a special category.The only drawback{ if one is emboldened to call it so}in his delivery of Tamil songs,is the lack of precision in the utterance of Tamil words like 'Kiliye' and 'Pillai' as experienced while listening to the songs 'Poovizhi Vaasalil Yaaradi Vandhadhu Kiliye Kiliye' and 'Pillai Nila'{ the latter  is from Balu Mahendra's Neengal Kettavai}.
     The voice of SPB on the contrary,is more open,with an innate force to flow and blow at one stroke.He has an invincible mark of clarity in his voice and it is a voice born with a quest and thrust for delivering words and musical notes without a hitch.He may not have the advantage of injecting vibration that is an inherent asset of the voice of Yesudas. But the force in the voice of SPB is like the down pour of the unfailing thick black clouds raining in torrents.The ever immortal Sangaraparanam song will speak of his might, for ever. He sings with full-throated ease and the sharpness and clarity of his Tamil accent is always a bonus to the listeners.
     K.J.Yesudas is ever a melody king exhibiting a peerless pattern of voice magnificence.Most of the Tamil film songs that he sang became a grand audio treat only because of his exquisite mode of rendition.To mention a few, songs like 'Sendaalampoovil' {Mullum Malarum} 'Pazhamudhircholai Enakkaagathaan' {Varusham Padhinaaru}'Nalla Manam Vaazha''{Oru Oothaappoo Kan Simittu giradhu}'Oora Therunchukittein'{Rajinikanth's Padikkaadhavan},'Annanenna Thambienna' {Dharmadhurai}are his amazing solo hits.Duets like 'Andhamaanai Paarungal Azhagu'{Andhamaan Kaadhali}'Malare Kurinji Malare'{Dr.Shiva}'Vizhiye Kadhaiyezhudhu'{Urimaikkural}}'Thenral Vandhu Ennai Thodum'{Thenral Vandhu Ennai Thodu}'Thanga Maganinru Singa Nadaipottu' {Baasha}and 'Maasimaasam Aalaana Ponnu'{Dharmadurai}are the eternal musical assets of Tamil Cinema.
     In the same way,SPB has given stunning songs like 'Pottu Vaitha Mugamo'{Sumadhi En Sundari}'Kamban Emaandhaan'{Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu}''Unakkenna Mele Ninraai Oh Nanda laalaa'{Enakkul Oruvan}' Nalladhor Veenai Seidhu' {Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu}'Paadi Parandha Kili'{Kizhakku Vaasal}'Ilamaiyenum Poongaatru' {Pagalil Oru Iravu}{Sagalakalaa Vallavan}'Ilaya Nila Ezhugiradhe'{Payanangal Mudivadhillai} 'Sangeedha Megam'{Udhaya Geetham}'Koottathile Koil Pura' {Idhayakoil}'Manram Vandha Thenralukku Manjam Vara Neramillaiyo'{Mounaraagam} Vannam Konda Vennilave {Sigaram}and'Nalam Vaazha Ennaalum EnVaazhthukkal' {Marubadium}In fact, it would be an unending list of his masterly delivery of film songs, mostly under the felicitous musical composition of Ilayaraja,the venerable prophet of music.
     If K.J.Yesudas has delivered the immortal lullaby 'Kanne Kalaimaane',{Mooraam Pirai}SPB has given us the ever lasting melody "Kalayaana Maalai Kondaadum penne" in the film Puth Puthu Arthangal which would be more than a lullaby if heard at bed time.The former's memorable tribute to motherhood in 'Ammaavai Vanangaadha Uyirillaiye' {Mannan} is perhaps a sequel to SPB's 'Naanaaga Naanillai Thaaye'{Thoongaadhe Thambi Thoongaadhe}and 'Amma Amma'{Uzhaippaali}.
    Tamil film industry truly owes a lot to these two fabulous voices for their qualitative enrichment of Tamil film music.May be SPB's contribution would be more voluminous than that of K.J.Yesudas.The voice of Yesudas keeps us possessed by a kind of irreplaceable magical spell;the voice of SPB makes us energized and empowered with a driving gusto.What an incredible amount of emotional vigour and energy has been transmitted by powerful songs like 'Ennadi Meenakshi' {Ilamai Oonjalaadugiradhu} 'Unakenna Melei Ninraai Oh Nanda laalaa' {Enakkul Oruvan}'Ilamai Idho Idho'{Sagalakalaa Vallavan}'Vandhenda Paalkaaran' {Annaamalai} 'Naan Autokaaran Autokaaran' {Basha}'Adhaandaa Idhaandaa' {Arunachalam} 'Oruvan Oruvan' Mudhalaali' {Muthu}'Devuda Devuda' {Chandramugi}and 'Ballelakkaa' {Sivaji}.These are not only great Kamal and Rajini hits, but are also samples of the power packed numbers of SPB, demonstrating his immense capacity for breath control as truly noticed in the song 'Mannil Indha Kaadhalanri' from Keladi Kanmani in which he also displayed his extraordinary histrionic skill. If Yesudas has a delving voice SPB is endowed with a leading voice.It is a kind of swinging experience for the listeners between the dynamic voice of SPB and the devotedly soothing tongue of Yesudas. The film music album of these two grand singers is a treasure house, worth visiting for a repetitive aural exaltation.
      It is interestingly a rare phenomenon that these two voices permeate in a form of semblance and similarity in the rendition of two other playback singers who have also vitally contributed for the success and sustenance of sweetness in Tamil film music.One is almost a close disciple of K.J Yesudas earnestly following his voice line, in tone and spirit and that is the effortless melody maker Unni Menon and the other is almost SPB's voice replica,the clear- tongued Mano. The subtle difference between Yesudas and Unni Menon is the absence of the stronger notes of the former's magnificent extent of vibration in the tone and delivery of songs, of the latter.However,heard from a distance, a song like 'Pudhu Vellai Mazhai Ingu Pozhihinradhe'{Roja}rendered by Unni Menon would perfectly bring the voice of Yesudas closer to our hearts.
     Similarly, it is a great  experience listening to the felicity and magic of music, perceived in the most penetrating  songs like 'Kannukku Maiyyazhagu' {Pudhiya Mugam}Poeraale Ponnuthaayee' {Karuthamma}'Ennavilai Azhage'{ both from Kaadalar Dhinam}'Nadhiye Nadhiye' {Rhythm} 'Enge Andha Vennilaa'{Varushamellaam Vasantham}or the joyous numbers such as 'Maanaamadhurai Maamarathukiliye'{Misaarakkanavu}'Dhaandiyaa Aattam Aada'{Kaadhalar Dinam}and 'Minnalaippidithu'{Shajahan}.Starting from 'Oh Maane Maane Unnaithaane'{Oru Kaidhiyin Diary}Unni Menon's  voice has almost been carrying on a proxy parade for K.J.Yesudas both in terms of sweetness and the mesmerizing calibre of singing.His is a softer voice than that of Yesudas but its level of reach and audio impact is no way inferior to that of Yesudas. Both the voices carry a healing touch to the extent of mellowing human emotions with grace and dignity.I have mentioned only a few songs of Unni Menon here.He has sung  under the music composition of the two musical stalwarts Ilayaraja and Rehman and he has been a favourite of film directors like Mani Rathnam and Vikraman. That he has sung most pleasing melodies for films like Unnai Ninathu, Priyamana Thozhi and Vaanathai Pola shows how much his voice has been valued by director Vikraman and his patronized music composer S.A.Rajkumar. If one listens to the musical flow of Unni Menon through a process of 'willing suspension of disbelief' one would faithfully and unquestioningly accept it as the infallible outcome from the vibrant voice of K.J.Yesudas. Like the inseparable Siamese twins, these two riveting voices are of an indistinguishable mould with a predominant clasp of human ears for compulsive listening, leading to spontaneous enjoyment.
     Mano's voice throw,clarity of diction and felicity of singing reflect undoubtedly,a near perfect duplication of an SPB rendition.The subtlest note of difference would be SPB's innate capacity for tongue twisting and voice churning like that of a precise mixing and squeezing equipment letting out the essence of what is being fed with in.It looks as though SPB's tongue would dance in tune with the syllables of the words and the words of the lyrics in accompaniment of the galaxy of instrumental notes.But Mano definitely has the raw voice of SPB and he shapes it as he likes it to be; beyond his self conscious efforts in this direction,the ultimate impact is the feeling of having listened to another song of SPB. This is how I mistook Mano's classic number "Thooliyile Aadavandha Vaanathu Min Vilakke" from Chinna Thambi for one rendered by SPB and even recorded it here in this article by mistake.Thanks to a reader's prompting, I stand corrected.
     Poor Mano,can not help his voice getting dissolved in the boiling Cauldron of the SPB vocal cords.Be it the soft numbers like'Nee Nadandhaal Nadaiyazhagu' {Baasha}'Malaikkoil Vaasalile' {Veera}"Pattuppoove Thottuppaaru' {Sembaruthi} 'Sandhana Maarbile Kungumam Dheindhadhe'  {Naadodi Thenral}'Ennavale Ennavale Engirundhai Needhaan'{Ninaithein Vandhaai}or the sprightly songs like 'Alli Alli Anaarkali' {Arunachalam} 'Thillaanaa Thillanaa"{Muthu} and "Ohoho Kikku Yerudhe"{Padayappa}it is just a hairline difference that could be noticed between Mano and SPB in their voice pattern and very often the debate continues in fixing the song with the voice of the original singer.
    After listening to such confusion in voice similarities,I would say that it is from Mano's voice and my son would say that it is in SPB's voice.Finally,sometimes I would be right and at times my son would score the point.Such a similarity in voice,would usually raise valid controversies, in fixing the identity of actors, during a course of listening to their dialogues, off screen. But here are two singers, whose voice and way of singing, make them both easily exchangeable on the platform of audition. Like SPB, Mano too has appeared on screen with an acting zeal and his role in Kamal's Singaara Velan stays memorable.But as a singer, Mano has sung songs mostly for Rajini films than those of Kamal. I have recorded here only a small number of Mano's songs from the exhaustive list of his Tamil filmography.This short supply is perhaps due to my inability to firmly differentiate a Mano song from that of SPB.
    These four great musical men, have crossed the linguistic barriers, both intrinsic and external and have meticulously and magnificently participated in the programme of patronizing Tamil film music through a genuine transmission of  energy and the power of music.The language of music is a firm ladder helping mankind reach newer heights of happiness and peace.What transpires vocally and instrumentally, might be the outcome of a human endeavour or the display of human talent, inborn and acquired.But there is always a pair of invisible hands operating from behind everyone and goading every human voice and hand, to play as it should.May be, that is why we say music is divine.The two mighty voices and their voice alikes, do have the backing of the invisible pair of divine hands, in driving them to the higher positions, that they have reached today.


  1. Hmm, I thought it was Mano who sang "Thooliyile Aadavandha Vaanathu Minvilakke".

    Fantastic article nevertheless!

    1. Thank you reader, for prompting me correctly, about the song "Thooliyile Aadavandha"which was actually sung by Mano. I have got it corrected.Thank you again for your comment.

  2. A beautiful song of YESUDAS & S. P. Balasubrahmanyam after 27 years...

    YESUDAS and S P Balasubrahmanyam

    1. Thank you Mr.Sunil Jacob for your lovely observation.