‘Humble persona is SP Balasubrahmanyam’s true legacy’, says Oscar-winning sound engineer
My last text to SP Balasubrahmanyam was on August 8, wishing him well. He replied, “We will meet soon”. I didn’t know that it would be the last response from him. I am just so shocked and devastated by his loss that it’s hard for me to describe what he meant to me, and what his impact has been on me, as a musician and as a human being.
I remember listening to the song Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981) on a cassette my brother-in-law brought from the Gulf. I remember listening to it and being in awe of the man with such uniquely melodious voice. I still play the same tape, and the song in my house. I believe that someone, who has mastered the art of saat sur (seven notes) which go from nabhi to uchi, has seen Lord Brahma. And I believe SP Balasubrahmanyam saw Lord Brahma.
I said the same thing on the stage in February this year, when I saw people gathering in huge numbers just to touch his feet at an event in Thrissur, Kerala.
I believe, only when you have seen Brahma, can you have such an impact on the masses. And his impact was across generations.
I remember him believing in my work, and whatever I wanted to do. I always wanted to work with him, but we kept missing each other. There was just so much that I wanted to learn from him about music.
I also remember, during one of his concerts, a guitar player’s instrument was not tuned correctly. SP Balasubrahmanyam apologised to the crowd on stage, asked them for some time, went to the guitarist, told him that it is okay and he can take his own time to tune it back. Imagine the nervousness the guitarist must be going through when he was playing the mistuned guitar, and how he was immediately put at ease by the very man he was getting nervous for!
This is one of the qualities of a person who is a higher being. I mean, apart from his legacy in music, which is unparalleled, his unassuming, humble and calm persona is what I think is his true legacy.
I remember in 1995, as a kid, we were going to music studios, as a part of the curriculum. And I remember visiting his studio. That was the first time I saw him, live. His first concern was not even related to music. It was if all of us had food. That, I think, says everything about him. He was always so kind, so humble, had no airs about what he had achieved, and was always such a positive personality.
I regret not working with him. I regret not getting the chance to work with him. I think he left us too soon. There was so much left that he could have taught us, not just through his music, but through his personality. I know, wherever he goes, he will continue to leave an impact, and mesmerise everyone with his uniquely melodious voice.
(Resul Pookutty is an Oscar-winning sound mixer and designer)
(As told to Samarth Goyal)