Music profile: Sonu Kakkar
"Ifeel I have improved as a singer"
In a day and age when packaging matters more than the actual contents, Sonu Kakkar is a rare find. This talented singer’s voice packs a punch even while her demure looks win you over with their innocence.
Raw but beautiful, Sonu’s singing style is full-throated and unabashedly powerful. She wowed the world with her raunchy folksy number Babuji Zara Dheere Chalo in E Niwas’ film Dum. And although Yana Gupta’s dance moves thrilled audiences, it was the unusual delivery of the song that truly made it a hit number. She even bagged the Best Debutant Singer MTV Immies Award!
Of course, Sonu was most excited to be at the receiving end of all the media attention her sudden rise to fame generated. But that’s not where her story began and it certainly did not end with her being a one hit wonder either.
Her story began with being born in Rishikesh, Uttaranchal, to loving parents who recognised a talent in their daughter and encouraged it all the way, even moving to Delhi where Sonu performed bhajans starting as early as the age of four, where her rendition of Sun Maiya Sun impressed an audience of thousands.
Nevertheless, Mumbai is where her star was destined to shine most brightly and moving here three years ago was a career move that again saw the unconditional support of her family. She sacrificed her education to pursue her career in music and it reaped rich dividends when she participated in a Channel [V] talent hunt contest. She auditioned to be a part of the girl band Viva and although she was not selected, her natural flair and spunky singing style caught the attention of one of the judges, Sandeep Chowta. He had found a diamond in the raw and was determined to bring it to the spotlight.
Sonu, who was devastated at first when she was informed that she had not been chosen, was suddenly radiant with hope when Chowta promised to recruit her for his next project.
That turned out to be the now infamous Babuji song. “Even though I used to sing bhajans up until then, when I was told to sing this edge, naughty number, I jumped at the chance and gave it my best shot,” recalls Sonu excitedly.
The industry saw a fresh face and talent, and Sonu was soon inundated with offers to sing similar numbers. She never turned down a single one but her next notable performance was in Sandeep Chowta’s non-film album Mitti, in which her song Call of the Lover - Sun Charkhe Di was an emotional and heart wrenching number. Marking Chowta’s debut as a song director, the track once again established Sonu as a talented songstress in the industry.
She sang a classical number in Kaizad Gustad’s film Boom; the song Seduction Saanwaria even received critical appreciation. After that, several playback numbers for films followed, such as Shaadi Se Pehle Honeymoon in Govind Menon’s Kis Kis Ki Kismat, a very seductive song in Tauba Tauba, a dance number in Ram Gopal Verma’s Naach and an item number composed by Sen brothers in Guddu Dhanoa’s Sheesha.
Then Sonu got work that she not only enjoyed but which was close to her heart to, especially since she is a self confessed fan of Sufi music and of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
She sang in a Times Music album called Euphoric Sufis, and reminisces how honoured she felt to be on the same CD as living legends Shubha Mudgal and Abida Parveen.
She then sang another Sufi song in the album Channa vey and three songs in Sandeep Chowta’s own album from Times Music.
From spiritually inspired music to popular remixes, Sonu believes her range extends to include them all, and she proved how right she was about this by doing songs Ni Main Yaar Manana Ni and Haadsa.
Never one to limit herself to a particular style or genre, Sonu is part of several upcoming projects with big names such as Harry Anand, Sheizwood Ashish, Anu Malik, A R Rehman, Rajesh Roshan, Anand Raj Anand and internationally renowned artiste Talvin Singh. On the playback scenario, Sonu will be creating magic in Raman Kumar’s film, Farukh Siddiqui’s Revati, Ek Se Bure Do, Manoj Aggarwal’s Ek Main Ek Tum, Ritesh Nayyer’s Jackpot, Men Not Allowed, Kuch To Kaha Hota, Rafta Rafta, Madhubala, and Smita Thackeray’s production Hum Do Hamara Ek with the song Sayonee Mainu Ishque Ho Gaya composed by Sukhwinder Singh.
But what’s creating a buzz in circles everywhere is her latest offering, a single titled, ‘Mallika, I hate you.’ This fun, wicked little number is composed by Sonu’s knight in shining armour, Sandeep Chowta. “The name doesn’t mean anything, instead of Mallika, it could have been any other name,” she explains, and that’s all she’s willing to share right now.
Exuberant and always cheerful, Sonu is very serious when it comes to her passion for music, “I haven’t had any formal training in music. I simply listen to a lot of different kinds of music, especially Sufi music and do riyaaz for at least two hours every day. Now I’m trying to raise it to four hours!” Her indefatigable enthusiasm is something she conveys effortlessly through her singing and she claims that because she enjoys what she does so very much, she doesn’t experience any strain on her vocal chords. Her success mantra is very simple: “Talent and confidence ensure that gender is not an issue if you want to rise in this industry. And I always try to give different variations in my work, harkat is very important for a singer.”
A little shy when it comes to her personal life, Sonu still manages to disarm you with her charm when she confesses, “Over the last three years, I feel I have improved as a singer because each and every single day that I learn more, I feel more confident. On the personal front though, I haven’t changed except for being happier, my dream of being a playback singer has been achieved even though I have yet to sing many, many more songs!”
She wants to be recorded in posterity as a singer who could perform in any style, and with her latest single already eagerly anticipated, that goals seems not too far away…