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Tracing a Musical journey

Kailash Kher opens up about his struggling days, people who inspired him and his never dying passion for music

absHe is considered to be one of the masters of Indian folk music and Sufi music. The story of his struggling days and days of glory makes up for a perfect inspiration for the aspiring singers. He is none other than Kailash Kher. At the age of 14, when children don’t even know the meaning of passion and purpose of life, Kher left home in search of a guru or an institution to further his musical training. Little did he know that he was going to be one of the legends of the music industry one day!

The singer mentioned in a past interview that he still gets unnerved every time he passes Mumbai’s Andheri railway station. “I lived here on the platform and one chaiwallah (tea-stall owner) in particular was a good friend of mine,” he was quoted.

As Kher’s sleek, black Honda City zooms out of the posh Lokhandwala area in Andheri, where he now resides, he says a silent prayer while crossing the station that was once his home.

“I had a few friends, some of whom were also involved in some way or the other in a few films. My name was recommended to musician Ram Sampat, who was at that time looking for a different voice for a jingle for Nakshatra

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The jingle may not have given Kher instant recognition but fetched him Rs 5,000, which he needed desperately at that time just to survive.

The sensational singer of ‘Allah ke bande’ from Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II the film was eventually declared a dud at the box-office originally thought his big break would come from Shah Rukh film Chalte Chalte.

Kher has also spoke about the biggest shock of his life during the struggling days. “I thought I had arrived in the industry when the song ‘Tujh par gagan se’ was offered to me by music director Aadesh Srivastava. But I was in for a rude shock when I finally got the cassette and heard the same song in Sukhwinder Singh’s voice.”

Kher admits it was a setback, especially because he was still a struggler and had pinned his hopes on that song.

Thankfully, for both Kher and the country, ‘Allah ke bande’ wasn’t chopped from the film, and remained at the number one position for almost six months across different channels.

That was nearly two years ago and it was, according to Kher, the turning point of his career. “It was a miracle that a song from a small film that didn’t even get good publicity initially was so well received,” he added.

Talking about the dark days which Kher had lived, the singer said, “Just like gold, which has to weather very high temperatures to achieve the sheen and shine it finally gets, so also every person has to go through struggles in his life to achieve success.”

Speaking of his idols, he said, “Just look at our first President Dr Rajendra Prasad and in recent years Dr APJ Abdul Kalam – they were not people who were born with a silver spoon. But, their patience and hard work made them who they are. A man with a silver spoon may get his share of supporters but he can never be an inspiration for somebody! Patience and hard work is the key to every man’s success.”

Initially, Kher got a lot of flak for his singing style. He admits he used to be nervous about it. “My voice was considered raw and not the conventional ‘hero kind of voice,’ because of which I got turned away from a lot of places,”

he added.

His critics, who once called his voice flawed and untrained, especially as it broke at high pitch, have had to chew on their own words as music directors are now creating songs especially for Kher in films. Ismail Darbar, the music director of films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Kisna, said, “Kailash sings with complete sincerity and dedication. Music for him is devotion, and that aspect reflects in his singing.”

While AR Rahman calls him a ‘fragrance of rural Indian soil,’ Aamir Khan hugged him and told him, ‘Your voice alone is music for the ears.’

Now, Kher’s personal life is a daily grind of recording sessions, rehearsals with music directors, live shows and innumerable interviews.

Singing by chance

Kailash never planned to be a singer. In fact, it was just a happy coincidence. Recounting his journey towards name and fame, Kailash said, “I always sang but before I turned to singing full time, I did many kinds of businesses some flourished and some left me with emotional as well as financial loss. That’s when I realised that my purpose in life is not to do business. I don’t have the temperament for that. That’s when I decided to seriously pursue singing as I surely knew that people get emotional when I sing. So, I came to Mumbai from Delhi in 2001. I was 29 – it’s an age when people settle down and here I was trying to build a career in music. I liked filmy music, but I never knew any composers and singers etc. I never thought that sufi as a genre will flourish in Indian films. Then ‘Allah ke bande’ happened.” The rest as they say is history. Being a singer wasn’t a part of my plan, I became one, but just by chance.” Kher got married to Mumbai-based film student Sheetal Bhan, a Kashmiri Pandit, on February 14, 2009 and they have a 6-year-old son Kabir. According to Kher, the marriage was arranged. Kailesh also owns a band. Kailash Kher and his band Kailasa has performed over 1000 concerts across the globe. He has not only performed for the South East Asian diaspora, but also for international audiences in festivals and venues such as GlobalFest at New York’s Webster Hall. Much like a magician who casts a spell with his magic tricks, Kailash Kher has been able to captivate the hearts of millions with his melodious voice and mellifluous renditions. If ‘Allah ke bande’ touched a spiritual note, ‘Teri Deewani’ got those in love to fall deeper in love with romance. Kailash Kher’s appeal lies in his unique voice. Couple that with his simple nature and it has endeared him to the audience. While the singer has won a Padma Shri for himself we hope that his career grows by leaps and bounds.

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