They often talk about their journeys and struggles, and speak highly of industry members who helped them climb the ladder of success. But, rarely do popular names from Bollywood’s playback scene talk about how their mothers have helped them become the musicians they are today. Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani, Ali Zafar and Kailash Kher tell us how their mothers have inspired their music, and have contributed to their careers.
My mother (Shobha Nigam) played a very important part in my life. She not only helped me become a fine musician, but she also made me a good human being. She taught me to be secular, and embrace all religions. She introduced me to the almighty. Musically, she had a huge impact on my life. She was a good singer herself. But she left professional singing in the mid ’80s. Her sense of rhythm and pitch was excellent. She could play many instruments, and had a great understanding of chords. I inherited that from her. She used to always encourage me to listen to bhajans and ghazals. She introduced me to the works of Anup Jalotaji, Pankaj Udhasji, Talat Azizji and Ghulam Ali saab. I remember, when I was 14, she got me to participate in various singing competitions in Delhi. She’d accompany me to all of them. I miss her a lot.
My mother (Sonali Mukherjee) is probably the sole reason that I could take my chances, not take up a day job, and pursue a career as a singer. She raised my sister, Sagarika, and me, single-handedly, after my father passed away in 1986. I was just 14 then. She used to be a chorus singer for film songs from 1970 to 2000. How she balanced both the roles of a single mother and working woman is a miracle. She always had a smile on her face. She encouraged me and Sagarika to do whatever we wanted to do. She never forced her will on us. Anuji (Malik; composer) fondly remembers that in 2000, when I had just got a bit of a foothold as a singer, my mom told the leading composers at that time that she wanted to stop singing chorus, lest I would get embarrassed if we had to sing in the same studio. Far from embarrassing me, I’ve always been proud to be her son.
Recently, I read somewhere that “it takes someone strong to make someone strong.” And that’s what my mother’s (Kusum Ravjiani) role in my life has been. From making sure that I got enough rest so that I could wake up early and go for my music sessions with my guru, to always being the voice of reason when life presented challenges – my mom has been there through it all. She is the foundation of everything that I have been able to build. And even today, all I strive for is to see a smile of pride on her face. That’s what pushes me to achieve more every day.
My mother (Reshma Dadlani) was the first person who ever sang to me. She’s the reason I first knew that something called ‘music’ even existed. Everything I know, everything I am, starts there. As I became more cognisant, both my parents shared their love for music with me by constantly playing it [at home]. That gave me my musical taste, and the ability to listen to, and love all music. My parents have been my rock. For me, the ultimate musical objective would be to someday make music that has the same truth that existed in the voice of my mother, when she was singing to her infant son.
My mother (Kanwal Ameen) helped me realise my potential as a singer. She used to tell me that when she was expecting me, she would listen to ghazals by Mehdi Hassan and old Hindi songs by Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkarji, Asha Bhosle, etc. So, when I started singing, she would say that I sounded like Kishore da and Hemant Kumar. As a child, the sounds around you have a great impact on your creativity and maturity. So, I am grateful to my mum for introducing me to such great music. Also, since I was a shy kid, my mother would encourage me to get on the stage, deliver speeches and participate in debates, to fight my fear of the stage. When I told her that I wanted to pursue music professionally, she was my greatest support. I feel fortunate that my mother is proud of me.
I was a very adamant child, and when I told everyone in my family that I wanted to pursue music as a profession, people mocked me. My mother (Chandrakanta Kher) was my only support at that time. Though she didn’t know anything about classical music, she gave me the money to buy a tanpura. She believed in my passion, and just wanted to see me happy. She used to sing folk songs, and that inspired me. I was 14 when I left home. When my career took off, I started receiving a lot of awards. But she would still ask me what I did professionally, because she didn’t understand that music could be a serious career. The kinds of lyrics I write today are hugely influenced by the bond I shared with my mother. Though she is no more, she continues to live through my music.