iconimg Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nishant Goyal
Mumbai, April 25, 2007
Since Himeshbhai burst on to the screen like hot lava through a dormant volcano, critics have panned him for his nasal voice, calling it a put-on, force-fit, unnatural and what not. He’s even got into a verbal slugfest with Asha didi when he suggested that even Panchamda sang nasal.
But one has always wondered what the fuss is all about, because over the years there have been stalwart singers, both Indian and international, who had heavily nasal voices but no one seemed to mind.

Looking back into the history of music, one realises that singing nasal is not so uncommon after all. Kumar Sanu “Heynnnn heynnnnnnnnn.” In the late 1980s and early ’90s, every single Kumar Sanu song began like this. A full-nosed ‘heynnn’ that quivered dangerously until the first strains of music kicked in. Sanu has been a very successful playback singer, having lent his nose to most of the stalwart actors of our times.

He’s even done a bunch of Indi-pop albums, and if one remembers correctly he stepped out , of a helicopter in a music video years before Himeshbhai did.

Ozzy Osbourne
The flamboyant lead singer of cult rock group Black Sabbath has been singing nasal since the band cut their first album in 1970. Their ’71 single Paranoid, on which he is as nasal as ever is a rock anthem to this day .

Besides, Osbourne has a history of drug addiction, has assaulted his managers and crew several times, shot all 17 of his pet cats in acocaine-inducedfrenzy ,andbitoff theheadof a dove brought by his manager to celebrate his first record deal. Maybe all his antics make his nasal voice seem the least of his idiosyncrasies.

S P Balasubramaniam
The portly singer who arrived in Bollywood as the voice of Salman Khanin Maine Pyar Kiya has a distinctly nasal voice, and his trademark snicker as he sang (Aaja shaam hone aayi …huhuh) became the talk of town as he sang for more leading heroes.

Ironically that was also the era when lyricists started throwing in a few English lines in their songs. So all in all, Balasubramaniam’s nasal voice, unique snickering and Tamil-accented hinglish was quite innovative and entertaining.

Cyndi Lauper
When you think ’80s glam pop, the first name that comes to mind is Cyndi Lauper’s.

Amidst all the singers listed here, she’s probably closest to Reshammiya in terms of range and nasal quality. Whether it was Girls just wanna have fun or True colours, Lauper’s voice always threatened to bust a few tweeters as it ranged surprisingly from shrill to succulent.

Add to that her trademark blood-red lipstick, giant ’80s hair, frilly frocks, and again, the voice became hardly an annoyance compared to the rest of the package.

Shamshad Begum
This legendary classical and playback singer started her film career in the early ’40s. Her first assignment was a song for Mehboob Khan’s Humayun scored by Ghulam Ali Haider.

Her distinct nasal voice, completely different from her peers, helped her carve a niche for herself. It’s said that she used to earn a princely amount of Rs. 15 per song when she started out.

And remember the superhit Kajra mohabbat wala composed by OP Nayyar? That was Begum at her best, even after she officially retired.

Singing nasal is neither a crime nor is it a recent phenomenon. And Reshammiya really has delivered consecutive hits since his Aashiq banaya aapne, so maybe we should cut him some slack.

And if one must criticise him, it should be for his repetitive compositions, overdose of media presence (never has a music director become such a recognised public figure), constant self-clarifications and giant cap collection.

But certainly not for his nasal voice, hunzooor!