Being a third culture kid ever since I was born, I’ve had my fair share of “miss-outs” compared to other kids my age. One such “miss-out” was the exposure to good Tamil music. Of course, my parents had an exceptional taste in Tamil music, for Ilayaraja was always heard in the house every weekend night. I’d spend time by myself, jamming to western pop, or at times, listening to Tamil music from a movie I’d have watched at that time perhaps. When I randomly heard “Kadhal Rojave” back in the year 2007 in my dad’s car, I honestly didn’t understand why my parents always appreciated SPB when his song played. “Isn’t he just another good singer?”, if only my naive self realized how wrong I was.
It must’ve been my summer vacation when I went on a trip to Tenkasi with my cousins. The driver played some really good music as we reached the outskirts of the city. “Mandram Vandha” started playing as I stared into the empty road. As it started raining my experience was further elevated .. “Ilayaraja and the rain” is a popular choice for many, but it has always been “SPB and Rain” for me ever since.
When I watched him as a guest on a reality show on television, I realized that he wasn’t just an extraordinary singer, but also an amazing human being. He was down-to-earth, and my respect for him grew immensely.. In the very same show, I did see him perform the famous “Yen kaadhale” song which at the end, brought everyone to tears. From children to young adults, judges, and the audience, his voice absolutely mesmerized everyone. This experience only solidified his place in my life and opened the vault to many of his older songs as well, which over time became some of my favorites.
There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day, lying on your bed, closing your eyes, jamming to SPB, and hearing him go “Thaamarai mele neer thuli pol..”, you just know you can shut off the world for a while and take a break from all the chaos that’s happening in your life.
I then realized that SPB is not just about the melodies that he sang, but also the peppy songs like “Oruvan oruvan mudhalaali” that make you want to jam in a car, at a party, or be it anywhere else. While mentioning “party”, one shouldn’t forget how an overwhelming majority of the clubs and parties in Tamil Nadu start the new year every year with SPB’s “‘Hi everybody, wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!’. It is this factor of SPB that made him the versatile singer he is, for he was able to capture the emotion of the song and deliver it to us as his own in his beautiful voice throughout his career.
The passing of SPB in 2020 had to probably be one of the most horrible days of my life. It still is hard to accept that we will never hear his pitch-perfect voice or see his innocent smile again, but all I can be grateful for is that I had the honor of being in this world at the same time as him. He may not be here with us today, but his music will live with us, and with the many more generations that are to come. Like he sang, “Indha dhegam maraindhaalum, isaiyaai malarven”, he continues to live.