It was 1999 when KK (Krishnakumar Kunnath), Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan had arrived on the mainstream music scene with their breakthrough hits; KK with his first album that had songs like 'Pal', 'Yaaron' and also 'Tadap Tadap Ke' from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Shaan with 'Musu Musu Haasi' and 'Woh Pehli Baar' and Sunidhi Chauhan with 'Ruki Ruki Thi Zindagi' and 'Mast'. Even though all of them had sung some songs here and there before, 1999 was the year that really made people sit up and take notice of them. Bollywood music industry was on the cusp of change and these fresh crop of singers were it's new playback voices.
As someone who has grown up listening to KK, one of the first things that you remember about him was his incredible versatility as a singer. He could be the forlorn lover in songs like 'Tadap Tadap Ke' and 'Sach Keh Raha Hai Deewana Dil' and at the same time, he could deliver party anthems like 'Dus Bahane' and 'Bardasht' with equal ease. His perfect throw of voice without trying too hard to do a lot went straight to the listeners' hearts. 'Tadap Tadap Ke', in particular, was one of the toughest songs of his career and in one of Ismail Darbar's interviews, the music director had mentioned that KK was a little apprehensive to sing that song when it was first offered to him. However, once he was on board, the pathos and the agony that he evoked in that song through his soulful voice made it an instant classic. There was so much power in his rendition that it elevated the performances of the lead actors, which is the hallmark of a great singer.
Veteran singers like Kumar Sanu and Abhijeet Bhattacharya have often heaped praises on KK for his versatility and for his unique style of singing which played a colossal role in modernising Bollywood music. Music director Anu Malik, while remembering KK, said that KK would ask for a higher pitch while singing a song because he had the range and the confidence to pull it off. Arijit Singh, one of the most popular singers of Bollywood currently, has often mentioned him as his idol. His contemporaries, Sonu Nigam and Shaan, have always respected him for his contribution to music and also for the gentleman that he was; the latter was his co-singer in quite a few hit numbers.
As for us 90s kids, KK blessed us with a song for every mood and every season. So many of us expressed the butterflies of first love with 'Zara si dil mein de jagah tu' and 'Dil Ibadat' and so many guys serenaded their lady-loves with 'Khuda jaane' and 'Aankhon mein teri ajab si ajab si adayein hai'. He showed us how to turn a song into a prayer with 'Tu Aashiqui Hai' and if we ever felt low and dejected, 'Aashayein' worked better than any intense motivational talk. On nights we needed a good cry, 'Alvida', 'Le Chale' and 'O Meri Jaan' never let us down. And how can I forget 'Pal' and 'Yaaron' without which our farewells and friendship day celebrations would have always remained incomplete. If that wasn't enough, most of our favourite Ad jingles had his voice. Pepsi, Yeh Dil Maange more, remember?
KK's voice was the soundtrack of our growing up years. Even if you weren't his biggest fan, you could literally hear his songs everywhere. His voice was like a comforting friend with whom we might not stay in touch in all the time, but whenever we needed assurance, he could make us see the brighter side of life or just be with us till we felt better. So, one of the reasons his sudden demise feels so personal is because we weren't quite prepared to let go of such a significant part of our childhood and teenage years. We feel cheated because it's not fair. His passing was a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the fact that we 90s kids aren't kids anymore and that everything in this world is changing.
However, if anything, his songs have taught us to hold strong and live in the moment, as he said, "Aanewali subah jaane rang kya laaye deewani.. Meri chahat ko rakh lena jaise koi nishani..". So, we have kept a part of him in our memories associated with his songs and he will continue to live on through them. A little piece of forever in an ever-changing world!