Alka Yagnik has been one of Bollywood’s most prolific female playback singers, and she ruled the roost for over two decades in her prime, but we don’t get to hear her voice too often anymore. Ask her why she’s stayed away from film music — and whether that upsets her — and the singer says, “There’s nothing to feel upset about. In fact, I’m happy that newcomers are able to showcase their talent. In my old days, I had sung all sorts of songs — romantic, sad, peppy, item numbers, etc. I want the newcomers to get the same kind of work. I am glad that we have multiple spontaneous singers.”
Among the current crop of singers, Monali Thakur and Palak Muchhal are among Alka’s favourites. “I think they are very talented and hard working,” she says, adding that despite being talented, most new singers are struggling to create their own identity in Bollywood. “The reason behind it is that the supply is more than the requirement in the industry. Several reality singing shows keep cropping up, due to which numerous talented singers come in the limelight. But since the industry requirements are limited, they run out of jobs soon. Voices change like weekly trends. Every week, you pick a new singer as your favourite and forget the old ones. This is killing the talent. In such cases, survival will always be difficult,” she explains.
What do you feel about today’s Bollywood music?
The audience likes it, but the songs don’t last for long. During our time, I don’t think there was any song that people wouldn’t like. We had gems by Lataji (Mangeshkar) and Ashaji (Bhosle). Their songs are perfect, well-written and well-composed. Today, hardly any songs have good lyrics.
Back in the ’90s, music making was a more mechanical process compared to today’s digitisation. Do you think technology has made singing easier?
Using technology to enhance the quality or effect of a song is good, but manipulating an entire rendition and reworking it digitally can only produce short-lived work. Because of the improved software today, even inexperienced people can compose music and make it worthy. Technology has created many singers and composers, but digitisation can enhance your singing, not your skill.
What are the changes in Bollywood music that you have noticed over the years?
I think film music lacks melody today. There are many loud songs that make people dance, but they fail to touch the listeners’ hearts.
What keeps you busy?
I sing for a lot of Bengali and Bhojpuri films. I also perform at a lot of concerts across the world.
When you catch up with your contemporaries from the last two decades, like Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and Sonu Nigam, do you discuss how film music has changed?
No we don’t, because we all respect today’s music. Trends that change every 10 years.
You’ve judged various TV shows; are you open to acting in one?
No, not at all. I think I am already an actor, because when I am asked to record a song, I’m expected to imagine the situation the song is made for and sing accordingly.
Tell us about your upcoming projects?
I am working on an album that will release soon.