In remembrance of the legendary musician, the Coimbatore-based environmental NGO Siruthuli dedicates SPB Vanam
This is SPB vanam, an urban forest coming up in Coimbatore in memory of the musician, a road shaped like a treble clef laid out among 74 trees denoting 74 years of the late musical giant SP Balasubrahmanyam’s life. It is developed at a 1.5-acre reserve site in Pachapalayam by Coimbatore-based Siruthuli, an environmental NGO, and Perur Chettipalayam Village Panchayat.
While Siruthuli already has Kalam vanam (a Miyawaki forest with 80,000 trees spread over 25 acres of land) dedicated to the late former President of India, the legendary singer wanted something similar. How else do you recall a legend? “Asks Vanitha Mohan, Siruthuli’s managing trustee, adding, “The amazing achievement is a career spanning 50 years and 42,000 songs in 16 languages. At his concerts, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, the singer urged that people care about nature. Through us, it touched an immediate chord.
Moments of Vivekh with SPB
- SPB and actor Vivekh have something in common. Both made their acting debut with Manadhil Urudhi Vendum by K Balachandar. “He was a proven musician, but an acting novice. We both spent hours together exploring the complexities of acting on the sets. I’d have my favorite SPB songs listed and he’d sing them for me. SPB would remember his student days when he would go to his college of engineering and sit at a tea shop to listen to the song of Mohammed Rafi and invariably tear up each time. Then he would joke how the shopkeeper mistook that he cried and avoided serving him tea because of low-quality tea! ”
- His favorite song on SPB? “So many gems are there I’m going to pick ‘Mannil Indha Kaadhal…”
When the concept took shape, they selected trees with a connection to music. There are rows of trees whose wood is used to make a tabla, a violin, a veena, or a tanpura, sharing room with shenbaga trees, known for their fragrant orange blossoms, and trees bearing fragrant flowers such as pavizha malli, paneer pushpam, and manoranjitham. We wanted Vanam to bring back memories of the musical experience of the artist. We have been studying native trees and zeroing in on teak, red sanders, ebony, rosewood, bamboo, and neem used to make Indian musical instruments,’ Vanitha Mohan says.
At the SPB vanam, the banruti pala, a special type of jackfruit tree used to make mridangam, holds a pride of place. They introduced sthala vrikshams such as nagalingam, marutham, punnai and mahilam, which can be used in ancient temples, to pay tribute to the devotional songs he sang for deities in places like Thiruvannamalai. A famous SPB song names every single tree.
The first tree, the fragrant shenbagam, for instance, is named after ‘Aayiram Nilavey Vaa’, his first song for Adimaipen, the MGR star.
The green canopy will become the place in another three years where birdsongs fill the air with a musical ensemble,” says V Chandrasekhar, Siruthuli, convener-afforestation.” For the plants, drip irrigation is in operation and stakeholders have come forward to preserve it, such as the Perur Pachapalayam Panchayat and the Officer’s Colony Association.
The route of the treble clef also acts as a trail for walkers. Soon, along the border, there will be Miyawaki forest, too. In the centre, where musicians will have musical performances, an elevated stage would be added. The green initiative is all appreciated by the actor and comedian Vivekh who planted the saplings of Shenbagam and Punnai trees at Vanam. Vivekh is also the founder of Green Kalam and has been planting saplings in many parts of Tamil Nadu over the past several years as the envoy of the late President Abdul Kalam’s Green Movement. He stresses, “What a lovely way to recall an international legend…” Even more, than a monument being erected.