The finest die young.
God seeks their company as much as we do.
One such soul left us on 31st May, 2022. He was born as Krishnakumar Kunnath and immortalised as KK.
A rare talent who scintillated the audience with his songs. And chose to stay away from the limelight off stage. He did what he knew best – lived & loved music.
What can I say that’s not already been said?
I will stick my neck out: I rate him as the most successful male singer in the last 25 years in the world of Bollywood playback singers.
And I mean no disrespect to others who have done a great job over these years. I am a fan of many others. But no one has consistently lent his voice to chartbusters during this period as KK has done. No lean patch. His songs are evergreen.
When did the KK magic begin? Let’s rewind to the 90s.
Singer & Composer Leslie Lewis gave him his first jingle to sing. He went on to sing some of the most memorable jingles for brands like Nerolac Paints, Colgate & Hero Honda.
1996. India had seen the first Prime Minister outside the Nehru-Gandhi family serve his full term. Followed by the release of Maachis, a hindi film by Gulzar where KK played a small part in a song where several singers contributed. The song became a sensation. But KK was a junior artist, relatively. The song is identified with the great Suresh Wadkar.
KK had to wait for his moment in the sun.
He transitioned into a playback singer, starting with AR Rahman’s Kalluri Saaley and Hello Dr. from Kadir’s Kadhal Desam.
Cut to 1999. The year that brought him stardom. Two gems: Pyar ke Pal & Yaaron from his debut album Pal . I remember then exclaiming “Wow! is this dude for REAL?”
Both these songs have become generic to farewell and friendship. Like a timeless anthem.
In the same year, his first solo in Bollywood Tadap Tadap (Hum Dil De Chuke Hain Sanam) was released. By then he made it impossible to ignore him. Singers take years to get there but here he had arrived in style and substance in his first solo attempt in the hindi film industry.
Such was KK.
But he didn’t rest on his laurels. He had much to do. To enthrall his listeners in the short duration he graced this world.
He again demonstrated his range when he sang Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe (Dil Chahta Hain) along with Shankar Mahadevan & Shaan. This was a fast-paced foot-tapping number that had an entire generation dancing to its tune. It still remains on every dance party playlist. I have two left feet and struggle with the very thought of dancing on stage. This is one of the rare songs that gravitates me to the dance floor. And I jump. Because dance I can’t.
Khuda Jaane, Tu Jo Mila, Labon Ko, O Humdum Suniyo Re, Kya Mujhe Pyar Hai, Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai, Zara Sa….the list is endless. I can go on and on. One cracker of a song after another over the years. KK was on a mission to spread love through his vocals.
He had an unmatched tonal quality in his voice which made every song endearing. When you hear a KK song, it feels as if rains have cooled the earth, cleansed the air and left a vivid green cast on the vegetation. His songs touch your heart and soothe your soul. KK is a mood-changer.
With accomplished singers, everyone has a favourite song or two. With KK, he made it impossible to pick just one or two. When you try to make up your mind on one of his songs, he’d surprise you with another. He’d not let you make a clear choice.
Both have much in common (besides leaving an indelible impact on me):
- Both have the same initials
- Neither had any formal training in music
- Both checked out in their fifties to enthrall the inhabitants of the other world
- The term “versatile” is tailor made for them due to the extensive range in their repertoire
- Both remain favourites of two or more generations
- Their songs are likely to live till there is life on earth.
There’re some differences. Kishore Kumar was flamboyant. KK was understated.
Kishore Kumar was celebrated in life and death. KK’s true impact and contribution among the masses seem to come out much more after the news of his untimely demise. Not that he was not admired by fans during his time. But he did not get his due. Not completely.
Maybe because he was intensely private. Maybe because he chose to stay under the radar when he was not singing. Maybe it was destined to be like this.
What’s irrefutable is that other Bollywood male singers will find it impossible to match the eternal impact of the songs by both KKs. All great singers do have a few songs which are timeless. Both KKs have a library.
The loss felt in this world will be the gain in the other world. Both Kishore Kumar & KK must have met, hugged, and by now ready to collaborate on their first duet.
Alvida maestro KK! Had it not been for you, “the loop” feature in music players would not have been used as much.