Here’s my list of the top 10 playback singers of India. Some of the selections may seem undeserving (to a few people) but, it was with great effort and devotion I managed to rank these legends. However one’s subjectivity or “bias” in such selections is inevitable and I tried my best to keep any personal feelings out of it. I’m a novice when it comes to analyzing the music industry but, I’m posting this list to show my appreciation to these Gods of Music. One must understand that the difference between each singer on the list is very minuscule. In my opinion versatility and voice quality matter most. whoever deserved to make the list had these qualities better than anyone else. Hope I was up to the task!
Rank 10- SONU NIGAM
Some of the best songs he’s sung are “Kal Ho Naa Ho”, “Sandese Aate Hain”, “Panchhi Nadiyaan”, “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”, “Main Agar Kahoon”, “satrangi re” and the kannada hit “Eenagali Mundhe Saagu”.
Rank 9- KS CHITHRA / P SUSHEELA
KS Chithra is famously known as the Little Nightingale of South India. Her euphonious voice combined with her supreme devotion to music has made her the recipient of 6 national awards(the most by any female singer). From Carnatic music to the modern day tunes, her ability to adapt and perform so consistently with such magnanimity is very rare quality.
Some of her best songs were-the Tamil hit “Padariyen Padippariyen” ,the Malayalam hit “Indupushpam Choodi Nilkum Raathri” , “Payalein Chun Mun” from the Hindi movie Virasat and the Telugu hit “Nuvvostanante”.
Some of her best songs were- the Telugu hits “Jhummandi Naadham Sayyandi Paadam”, “Yentha Peethovaade Gopaludu Venugopaludu”, “Kalyanini Kanulunna Manusuku Kanipinchu” and the Tamil hits
“Paal Polave Vaan Meedhile” and “Magane Magane Kannurangu”.
Rank 8- JAGJIT SINGH
The undisputed king of Ghazals. In my personal opinion, he should be in the top 5! The choice of poetry for his songs and his soothing ethereal baritone could even heal people from depression or misery. His songs provide a sense of relief, hope, joy, love and despair to his listeners….almost indistinguishable from a part of their lives. There never was and probably never will be a Ghazal singer like him. From Devotional to Classical, his repertoire is full of harmonizing tunes which could numb down even the most stone hearted men. His pairing with Gulzar for Mirza Ghalib will forever remain in my heart as the greatest performance I’ve ever witnessed.
Some of his most famous Ghazals/Songs are- “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar”, “Koi Yeh Kaise Bataye”, “Ab to Ghabraake yeh kehte hain”, “Chhitti Na Koi Sandesh”, “Hosh Walon Ko”, “Koi Fariyaad” and “Shaam se aankh mein nami si hai” .
I know for sure his fans are thinking “what’s this Idiot blogger doing by ranking this legend at number 6?”. Unfortunately folks, it was a very tough decision I had to make. If there ever was anyone more versatile in singing than Kishore, I have never heard of him 🙂 From a talented actor to a staggeringly gifted singer, he could have filled any shoes with ease and perfection. Although he struggled initially during his music career, he remained a one man show from the 70’s till the day he died. This I guarantee, atleast in my generation you’ll never see a person who’s half as talented as Kishoreda was!
Some of his famous songs are- “Mere mehboob qayamat hogi”, “Zindagi ka safar”, “Kehna hai aaj tumse yeh”, “aa chal ke tujhe main leke chaloon”, “Manzilen apni jagah hai”, “Chingari koi Bhadkey” and “Yaadon ki Baarat”.
Rank 5- Ghantasala
For nearly a quarter of a century, he was the voice of Telugu films. He composed for more than 100 movies and also sang the entire Bhagavad Gita. His supremacy in Carnatic vocal music is unquestionable. You could say that he was like a priest (saadhu in a Temple) singing to God and his majestic voice expressing all the emotions one can experience. Even if you are incapable of understanding the language he sang in, his voice explained everything. From the incredible modulation in his tones to an unparalleled voice with a wide range of pitch, he was a rare gem who could unleash a storm of emotions with utmost ease.
Some of his famous songs are “Akasha Veedhilo”, “Manishi Maaraledu “, “Kolo Koloyanna” and “Rangula Ratnam”
Rank 4- S. P. Balasubrahmanyam
Rank 3- YESUDAS
He’s is fondly called Gana Gandharvan or The Celestial Singer. 50000+ songs, more national/state awards than any other Indian singer….Frankly, there’s no record left in this country for him to break. The former Music composer Ravindra Jain(who was blind) once said that he almost regained his vision after hearing Yesudas sing. The element of spiritualism is evident in most of his songs…I have to admit that he takes the listener into another realm of existence with his soulful voice. Even the spirit of a man can associate with his melodious message and sway to his transcendental tunes. In my opinion, he’s the best male singer alive today.
Rank 2- ASHA BHOSLE
She’s the most recorded artist in music history. In my opinion, she’s the most versatile female singer of all time. From Pop music to Qawwalis, her voice control is extraordinary. Her mellifluous overtones blend with the cadences of music as though they were born to be there. She could sing an item number in the most sensuous voice and at the same time, she could plunge you into introspection by singing a tragic note. Her combo with OP Nayyar and RD Burman has made a shattering impact in the music world. When you thought, she was only meant for western music, she came with melodies of the most deeply impacting Indian Classics….The Rabindra sangeet. She’s a maestro in all fields of music!
Some of her best songs “Katra katra milti hai”, “Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya”, “Yeh jya jagah hai doston”, “Piya tuh ab toh aaja”, “Doh lahfzon ki hai dil ki kahani”…and so flows the tide of sublime music.
Rank 1 is a Tie between—> Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar
According to most music artists in India, Rafi is the best singer of the millennium. The joy you feel when he sang for Shammi Kapoor was intoxicating and the tragedy he expressed while singing for Dilip Kumar made one feel the texture of anguish and misery. Yesudas, SP. Balu and many other greats regard him as their Guru or the ultimate singer. I’m personally very moved by his tragic songs… the excruciating pain, the heart wrenching agony and the absurdity of our mortal lives..is plainly felt through his radiant god like voice. Most of the older generation of actors and music directors have orbited their career around Rafi. Undoubtedly he’s the greatest thing has happened to the Indian Music Industry!
Some of his best songs are “Chahunga main tujhe saanjh savere “, “Main yeh sochkar uske”, “Barbaade mohabbat ki dua”, “Kya huva tera waada”, “Yeh mera prem patra padh kar”….and everything else he’s sung!
Lata Mangeshkar- Bharat Ratna, Nightingale of India, Goddess of music etc…I can go on and write a book! anyone who’s heard her divine soaring voice is most likely to remember it till the day he dies. If there’s anyone who can truly say that’s he/she’s got a God gifted talent, that’s Lata. It’s fair to say, Lata’s true potential was realized when she worked with Madan Mohan. The songs composed by this team are beyond endurance for a mortal heart. There’s nothing more to add about her..because the world already knows what she truly is…..God’s boon to Music!
Some of her best songs are “Aaj socha toh aansoo bhar aaye”, “Raina beet jaye”, ” Woh bhooli dastan”, “Aap ki nazron ne samjha”…and everything else she’s sung!