Kailash Kher (Photo:www.kailashkher.com)
If you did not know that Kailash Kher was a singer, hearing his normal speaking voice you would not suspect that he could ever be one. It is, of course, a very animated, urgent even, voice that wants to tell many stories. Speaking to Kher was nowhere on the cards yesterday or ever but courtesy of dear friend and photojournalist Jay Mandal, I did. It was a very enjoyable half hour.
I began my conversation, whose details I will report tomorrow, by saying what I had told the great Nusrat Ali Khan in his Faislabad home in 1993. “Aisa lagta hai ki aap ki awaz seedhi aap ke zameer se nikalti hai.” Kher seemed quite taken aback not just by the compliment but its implied comparison. I was not making a comparison but only saying that there are some singing voices that seem to emanate straight from the singers’ conscience. My observation is not intrinsically meant to be a high compliment although in these two particular cases it was meant to be precisely that. It is more a description of how authentic a voice sounds. Unlike Khan, whose speaking voice lacked the animation of Kher’s, the latter sounds as if he was in the midst of a rumination which you interrupted. And now that you have interrupted, you might as well experience the full of measure of it.
Having heard a lot of his repertoire I can tell you that Kailash Kher is a genuinely happy singer and his happiness comes across in his singing. He is also a very friendly singer and by that I mean not friendly as a human being, which by the way he appears to be, but a singer whose style of singing is deceptively friendly. You hear him and you would want to sing along. I found out the reason for that. He believes that singing is like air that spreads fragrance around. It is not necessarily the singing but the way you feel it.
Not being a classically trained singer, Kher comes across as someone unshackled by technical restraints. He just goes for it. Here is a singer who could be sitting in the middle of an airport lounge, waiting to catch a flight and talking to a journalist on his mobile phone and could suddenly start singing. That is precisely what he did with me to illustrate a point about how in a particular song—‘Teri Deewani’—he began with a high note. It was unusual because high notes often come during what is known as “antara” or in the body or middle of a song and not at the beginning. Like many people who spend their entire constructive lives in music Kher too is unmindful of and uninhibited about where he is when it comes to breaking into a song. More about him tomorrow.