In 1999, when this gentle ditty composed by Lesle Lewis hit the music channels and already overloaded shelves at music stores, it seemed impossible to box the voice of the song into a strict category. This was not a typical playback singing voice that was tailor-made for the hero of the times. This one had the singer peeking inside the composition and expressing it for the listeners with much heart.
A debut album by Delhi-based singer named KK, this piece, in an album named Pal, was sung gently, in tune, but without the frills and flounces of a trained vocalist. One heard this song, harmonized it with life, and let it stay there for every farewell that followed—of friends, family, unrequited love, of one’s favorite artiste. Pal also came with eight other songs but Pyar ke pal, Yaaron dosti and Aap ki dua became milestones, not just musically, but their innocence and evocativeness had the generation growing up in the ’90s wrapped up in it, playing them on loop.
These songs and so many others in many languages by singer Krishnakumar Kunnath, better known as KK, often stopped time. His death of him, at 53, after a college concert, had him at his best of him. As he sang ‘Pyar ke pal’ for one last time — it was like life coming full circle. He is survived by wife Jyothy and two children.
Best of Express Premium
KK grew up in Delhi in a Malayali family, where both his parents were fond of music. His grandmother taught him music and KK, who studied in Delhi’s Kirorimal College, grew up listening to Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, and songs by RD Burman besides those by Billy Joel and Sting. He didn’t enjoy music lessons as a child and never trained in any way and wanted to do medicine. But a keen ear and power to remember exactly what he heard, helped him chart a path in the world of music. Be it desh ki dhadkan for Hero Honda, Nerolac or Colgate, his versatile yet unique voice adjusted in these moulds. TV jingles were followed by title songs for popular 90s shows such as Hip Hip Hurray and Just Mohabbat.
“Both of us began with ad jingles… KK was the first singer I signed up. Since then, there has been no film where he hasn’t sung for me. I ensured that he would sing at least one number for me… When he recorded Yeh Hausle with me for 83, little did I realize that it would be our last creative collaboration,” said his friend and music composer Pritam Chakraborty
While his first film break came with an AR Rahman song in a film named Duniya Dilwalon ki, what made KK a household name was Tadap tadap ke in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) around the same time Pal found a release. His searing voice of him in this Ismail Durbar song, just pierced through and became an emotional response for many a broken heart. While he climbed scales to lift his voice, he followed it with the fun Koi kahe kehta rahe with Shaan and Shankar Mahadevan in Dil Chahta Hai (2001), the evocative Awarapan in Jism (2003) and the soulful Tu aashiqui hai in Jhankaar Beats ( 2003). So interesting was the voice that it could sing the street style Tune maari entry with as much aplomb as the profound Tu hi meri shab hai in Gangster (2006).
“What a consummate artiste he was, surrendering to the composer completely,” singer-songwriter Anupam Roy told The Indian Express.
A private person who mostly stayed away from advertising himself, as is the norm in film industry, he mostly stayed out of the public eye and controversies. Instead, his songs spoke for him, and they were mostly paced out. One was never over-exposed to KK’s voice from him – Not because he was n’t singing enough, but because he always found himself with a variety of composers and projects which had KK molding his voice differently for each character.
On stage, he was a live wire — even in Kolkata on Tuesday night, he belted out a long list of his pieces.
For people who listened to him, as deeply as he sang, KK’s voice will remain etched as a salve for the soul, the kind that will remain imperative to coming generations at crucial stages in their life, the kind that taught one to be gentle and kinder to those around us.
That was KK, overwhelming and yet never, ever overpowering.
With inputs by Rinku Ghosh