Usha Uthup – The Indian Pop & Jazz Singer

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Usha Uthup is a well-known name in the list of pop singers. She struggled hard during the start of her career. She started her singing career with Radio Ceylon, night clubs and hotels. Once, while singing at Oberoi Hotels in Delhi, she got a chance to enter Bollywood as a playback singer. In the era of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, it was not that easy to get into singing career in Bollywood. Despite of not having any professional training in singing, she did wonders in Pop and Jazz singing. She sung an English song for the movie ‘Bombay Talkie’ in 1970. Originally, she was about to sing ‘Dum Maro Dum’ with Asha Bhosle from the movie ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, but due to politicking she ended up singing the English song. Her love and dedication for singing, gives her success.

Her singing talent is not just limited to one or two languages, but she sang popular numbers in sixteen different Indian languages and six foreign languages too. When in school, she was once rejected in her music class because of her voice but the same voice today brought her on top. When she was just nine years, she sang in public for the first time on the Ovaltine Music Hour on Radio Ceylon.

‘Failure is always the key to success,’ and this can be clearly seen in her case. In singing, stage performance, and reality shows, she had surpassed her talent. She proved that for singing, sweet voice is not obligatory but your love for music and your passion towards singing is necessary. After Usha Uthup, many new singers became more popular with their powerful voices like Sunidhi Chauhan who got her first break for the movie ‘Mast’, Jaspinder Narula for ‘Pyar to hona hi tha,’ and Rekha Bharadwaj who sung with Usha Uthup for ‘7 Khoon Maaf’.

Usha Uthup works for different charitable trusts, blind schools, NGO’s, for street children’s, for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. She represented India in festivals organized by the Indian Government in Hong Kong, Mauritius, Nairobi, East Africa, Kenya and others. She also represented India through ICCR across Europe, Africa and Asia. She worked in South Africa extensively for various charities including SPCA and Milk Fund Durban, collecting over 1 million Rand.

Usha Uthup is a pioneer to bring Pop and Jazz singing in India. She sang several songs in the 1970s and 1980s for music directors R D Burman and Bappi Lahiri. ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ song of R D Burman was reprised in her voice. She made her first album with Luis Banks. She also made a hindi version of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” titled “Chhupke Kaon Aya”, which can be found on the album Tom Middleton – The Trip. She sang a song called “Rhythm and Blues” with the Indian Rock Band Parikrama.

She is the queen of pop singing and true lover of traditions and culture which is seen in her dressing style. Her silk saree, gajra and big round bindi, is her trademark representing Indian culture. She is the biggest inspiration to the new comers in singing. She says “Be yourself and Be Original” to encourage all the new comers. She had sung “Aage Badho” in 15 languages for women empowerment. She also composed and recorded a song “The Peace Prayer” based on a poem by President APJ Abdul Kalam. She also acted in few movies and judged Star Singer, Bharat ki Shaan: Singing Star Season 2 & 3, and Phir Asan Gaan.

Usha Uthup received Padma Shree Award in the year 2011. Songs like ‘One Two Cha Cha Cha’, ‘Hari Om Hari’, and ‘Rambha Ho’ took her to nominations in Filmfare. But she finally received the Best Female Playback Singer Award for the song ‘Darling’ from the movie ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ in 2011 which was shared with Rekha Bhardwaj.