KK, a singer with a voice that enchanted both swooning hearts and jilted lovers

Krishnakumar Kunnath aka KK (1968-2022) gave listeners shivers every time he approached the stage, with a voice that could evoke the charm of youthful enthusiasm as well as the melancholy of love with equal felicity. Anyone who was approaching puberty at the turn of 2000 can recall a KK song that drenched their soul.

KK was one of the most versatile singers

KK was one of the most versatile singers of his day, with a fan base that transcended languages, geography, and age groupings. From his undergraduate days in Kirorimal, the quiet youngster, who was born into a Malayali household in Delhi, became the lifeline of theatre productions. The self-effacing singer, like his inspiration Kishore Kumar, was untrained and believed in being known by his voice rather than his public statements. He, like Kishore, assimilated the feeling, and the result was always heartfelt and, for the most part, lasting.

He became a sensation with Hum Dil Chuke Sanam

He became a sensation with Hum Dil Chuke Sanam (1999), where he sang the anthem for jilted lovers, “Tadap Tadap Ke Dil Se Aah Nikalti Rahi,” after a couple of famous albums, particularly his Pyar Ke Pal song. No student farewell was ever complete without his songs of sadness and nostalgia, interwoven with the ecstatic admission: “Tu Aashiqui Hai” ( Jhankaar Beats), from the IITs and IIMs to the local colleges.

Tadap Tadap, composed by traditionalist Ismail Durbar, not only demonstrated KK’s range in higher octaves, but also spurred him to sing many tracks for Salman Khan, whose star was rising.

He sang immensely popular songs for Shah Rukh Khan (“Aankhon Main Teri”), Emraan Hashmi (“Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai”, “Zara Si Dil Main De Jaga Tu”), Hrithik Roshan (“Dil Kyun Mera Shor Kare”), and Ranbir Kapoor (“Khuda Jane”) over the next two decades, but his vocal chemistry with Salman remained unmatched, as evidenced in Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

Last hope for those who have suffered heartbreak

KK’s “Maine Dil Se Kaha Dhoondh Lana Khushi” ( Rog) is the last hope for those who have suffered heartbreak. In fact, as Mahesh Bhatt’s banner envisioned, there was a time in KK’s career when his voice became a salve for broken hearts. He matched Irrfan’s eyes’ depth with the khalish (mordacity) in his voice in Rog. Even if you played it on repeat all night, you wouldn’t be able to map the undulations in KK’s voice. In “Awarapan Banjarapan” ( Jism), he conveyed a same emotion of desire.

He collaborated on both films with MM Kreem, who brought out the melancholy tone in his voice.

KK had a large fanbase in South India, having began his career with A.R. Rahman ( Kadhal Desam). His collaborations with Harris Jayaraj became a trend among young people coming to terms with their first love. KK’s “Sach Keh Raha Hai Deewana” became a mainstay of musical evenings when R Madhavan’s Minnale was adapted as Rehnna Hai Tere Dil Main. Their friendship lasted until the next Legend. KK, like Durbar, proved his worth when Maestro Ilaiyaraaja pushed him out of his safety net in Ninu Choodaka Nenundalenu.

He collaborated with all of the country’s top composers, but unlike some of his contemporaries, he was only asked to write one or two numbers that determined or altered the plot. Composers did not remember KK very often as sad melodies faded from Indian cinema. When Pritam, with whom he had a long and fruitful relationship, needed a rousing number for 83, he contacted KK, and we got “Yeh Hausle.” It reminded us of the sense of hope he gave us in Iqbal with “Aashayein.”

He was a rage on the concert circuit to the end, and he will be remembered as the artist who became the voice of the heart at a time when the world was falling into the rat trap of insipid pragmatism. 

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