Article Hindi

The mesmerizing tracks of Kailash Kher – Birthday special

As the singer turns 44 (7 July), we revisit some of his finest numbers.

Mayur Lookhar

Every generation produces its share of top singers. Not all of them rule the roost for long. Some talents shine briefly, yet leave an indelible impression in the minds of fans. Some of them may not even have classically melodious voices, but their earthy, rustic flavour becomes their USP. Kailash Kher is one such singer who has charmed lovers of Sufi music.

Though Kher made his debut in Hindi cinema first, he shot to fame when he formed his own music band Kailasa. Along with guitars, drums and keyboards, the band incorporated classical Indian instruments and even traditional lyrics into their songs to infuse a folk-Sufi hue.

The success of the band opened more opportunities for Kher in Hindi cinema, with composers and lyricists willing to produce tracks that were befitting his talents. As the singer turns 44 (he was born on 7 July 1973), we revisit some of Kailash Kher’s finest numbers that include divine tracks from his albums.

'Allah Ke Bande' – Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II (2003)

Kailash Kher's debut film Andaz (2003) did not provide him with any great numbers. Kher was able to unleash his talent only in the 'Allah Ke Bande' song from the little-known Arshad Warsi-starrer Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II. This was an unplugged performance that could bring a smile even on the face of a stone-hearted person. Such was the magic of Sadaqat Hussain’s lyrics and Kher’s voice. While Kher also featured in the video, the music was composed by Shibani Kashyap.

'Teri Deewani' – Album Kailasa (2006)

Sufi music has always been a challenge for Hindi film composers, so Kailash Kher launched his own music album Kailasa, named after his band, that would elevate his stature as a Sufi singer.  The 'Teri Deewani' track became a rage. It is always fascinating when a male singer sings for a female devotee/lover trying to persuade her deity/loved one. The music was a great fusion of Sufi and rock. But all of it would have counted for nothing if not for the divine lyrics and enchanting voice of Kailash Kher.

'Saiyyan' – Album Jhumo Re (2007)

The success of Kailasa paved the way for the band to release its second album, Jhumo Re. The marquee track was 'Saiyyan'. It is really to difficult to put in words the pure joy that you can get listening to this track. The voice, the music, the visuals, this one would have moved the heavens. Many regard it as Kher’s finest performance to date.

'Yun Hi Chala Chal Rahi' – Swades (2004)

One of Udit Narayan’s finest tracks; however, one should not forget the contribution of Kailash Kher. Maybe his voice was lost in the madness enacted by Makarand Deshpande lip-synching. But if Udit Narayan was the heart of this song, Kher’s voice was its soul. Credit to Javed Akhtar for penning a thoughtful, philosophical, slice-of-life number. The song had three unique voices, with Hariharan providing the additional vocals. All three combined to create a great number.

'Chak De Phatte' – Khosla Ka Ghosla! (2006)

No artiste can get better without getting out of her comfort zone. Even if the effort comes to nought, a singer can still be proud of the effort. A cliched Bollywood Hindi-Punjabi track is not the terrain of a Sufi singer. Nevertheless, Kailash Kher surprised us pleasantly with the 'Chak De Phatte' track from Dibakar Banerjee’s Khosla Ka Ghosla! Riding on bhangra beats, Kher chipped in with a measured performance. Unlike the average OTT Punjabi pop singers, Kher’s voice didn’t burst into your eardrums.

'O Sikander' – Corporate (2006)

The prelude on the bulbultarang at the beginning lulls you into believing that this is going to be a classic qawwali. However, you soon discover that 'O Sikander' is a Bollywoodized qawwali. The moment the word aukaat (status) figures in a track, it is not so pleasing to the ears. This track was not for the purists, but Shamir Tandon composed a nice mix of classic qawwali tunes and Hindi film music from the 1990s. Kher not only sang this admirably, but he also featured in the song. If it weren’t for him, 'O Sikander' would have been reduced to dust.

'Ya Rabba' – Salaam-e-Ishq (2007)

His soor and taal (notes) perhaps went for a toss initially, but there was something magnetic about Kailash Kher’s performance that always pulled you to the 'Ya Rabba' track. A broken heart is unlikely to sound melodious. Kher was perhaps tacky in the introduction, but thereafter the Sufi singer truly felt the pulse of and the pain in the ballad — an underrated gem by Sameer. What let the song down, though, was the OTT melancholia of the many stars featured in it.

'Tu Jaane Na' – Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009)

A film where the ajab reel love story of Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif spilled into the real as well. Though a ballad, 'Tu Jaane Na' was set to delightful romantic music by Pritam. Kher’s unplugged version was more enjoyable than the one by Atif Aslam. Lyricist Irshad Kamil, who had proved his mettle with Jab We Met (2007), enhanced his credentials with this soulful number. Arguably the finest filmi romantic number sung by Kher so far.

'Arziyan' – Delhi-6 (2009)

A Sufi song in the true sense. Javed Ali was the lead singer for this number, but the vocals by Kailash Kher leave you in a trance.

“Hooo ek khushbu aati thi,
Hooo ek khushbu aati thi,
Main bhatakta jaata tha,
Reshmi si maaya thi,
Aur main takta jaata tha...”

The moment you hear these words in Kher’s voice, divine energy courses through your veins. It is hard to describe that feeling. One of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s finest compositions, and a gem by lyricist Prasoon Joshi. 

'Tere Naal Ishqa' – Shivaay (2016)

Since 2010, Kailash Kher has struggled to make a mark. He was never meant to sing the run-of-the-mill stuff. For Kher to succeed, he needs defining lyrcis. The singer gave a firm reminder of his talent with the 'Tere Naal Ishqa' track – the lone bright spot in Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay. It was Saeed Quadri who penned this heartening track which underlined again that given fine lyrics Kailash Kher can weave magic.