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Tribute to two greats

Two major singers from Bollywood passed away in recent months. Both had their own unique styles. Coming from different backgrounds yet shared a common passion for music. I liked both of them but unfortunately could not see either of them live in concert. Being a concert junkie, I saw a lot of the maestros perform live, but missed these two. Here is my tribute to the two greats.

Unfortunately we gain a lot of information only after a person’s death. I learnt more out of the obituary columns of the New York Times in the last few decades.

Krishna Kumar Kunnath affectionately known as KK was not a classically trained singer. Yet he rose to a unique position in the pantheon of Bollywood singers. Like the legendary Kishore Kumar. But unlike Kishore, he did not have any friends or relatives in Bollywood. Buoyed purely by talent and passion to reach the glorious heights. He lived a short life, dying in early fifties. Drawing parallels to Mukesh and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan all of whom did not survive a heart attack after a live performance.

KK’s range of voice was very unique. Very energetic high pitch or very soothing low pitch, he was a master of his vocal chords. Some of my favorite songs – “Chhod Aaye Hum Woh Galiyan” from Gulzar’s movie  “Maachis”, “Tadap tadap ke is dil mein” from the movie “Hum dil de chuke sanam”, “Awaarapan Banjarapan” from the movie “JIsm”. “Dus bahaane karke le gaye dil” from the movie “Dus”, “Ek pal ke liye hi sahi” from the movie “Ankahee”, “Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai” from the movie “Gangster”, “Jhoom barabar jhoom” from the same titled movie, “zara si dil mein de jagah tu” from the movie “jannat”. Lastly he wrote the lyrics and sang the song “Hum Rahe Ya Na Rahe kal” appropriately reflecting the sentiments of our mortality.

More recently, Bupinder Singh, famously known as “Bhupinder” passed away. At an older age due to complications from covid.  He was the contemporary of the legends who ruled the golden age of Bollywood music in the 1960s and 1970s. Unlike KK, he had a musical heritage. The son of a music professor in Amritsar, he was not keen on music as a child. Probably due to too much saturation of music at home and the family pressure to grow into music. But later learnt enough music to perform on All India Radio and Doordarshan in Delhi. He also learnt to play the guitar.

In 1964, music director Madan Mohan heard him over the radio. He called him and recorded a song “Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bulaya Hoga”  along with the legend Mohammad Rafi for the movie “Haqeeqat”. I liked that song very much, but it did not make any great waves nor did it propel Bhupinder to stardom. The next chapter in his life was his collaboration with the composer Panchamda (RD Burman) which grew into friendship. My favorites are “Meethi bol bole payaliye” and “naam gum jaayega” from the movie “Kinaara”, “beeti na beetaaye raina” from the movie “Parichay”, “kisi nazar ko tera inezaar aaj bhi hai” from the movie “Aithbaar”, “dil dhoondtha hai” from the movie “mausam”, “ek akela is shahar mein” from the movie “gharondha”,  “kabhi kisi ko muqammal jahaan nahin miltha” from the movie “aahistha aahistha”.

This repertoire of songs would have been enough to place him in the exclusve club of Bollywood singers. But, in addition, he played the guitar for Panchamda’s songs “Dum maro dum” from the hippy movie of the 1970s “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” and “Chura liya hai tumne”  from the movie “yaadon ki baarat”. I am mesmerized by his voice as well as his guitar playing abilities.

Both these greats enthralled us over the years and left tons of memories. May their souls rest in peace.

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Prasad Ganti

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Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi
22 days ago

Beautiful article and very interesting to read so many things about the two singers. KK’s death was rather unexpected but I didn’t know much about his repertoire. Bhupinder ofcourse was unique but somehow either he didn’t like to approach people for work or didn’t have the right connections in Bollywood, otherwise it makes one wonder why he doesn’t have too many songs to his credit unlike others who are not even half as talented.

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