Vibrant, versatile, and celebrated across the world, Sonu Niigaam, the shining star of the Indian musical firmament is not ready to rest on his laurels. Not yet, and not for a long time. Hard work is a strong personal ethic for Niigaam, as is a desire to continue to excel. Gone are the days of Rafi mimicry and trotting out someone else’s golden hits. Today’s Niigaam represents his own voice, his own face, his own endearing brand, and his very own charisma.
Talent, timing, and destiny converged to create the singing sensation that Niigaam has become for his fans across the continents. Young Niigaam, accompanied his father, Agam Kumar, a well-known singer of his time, on musical tours. At the age of 3, he had his first brush with fame when he won great praise for singing a Mohammed Rafi song, “Kya Hua Tera Vaada.” Thereafter accompanying his father and singing Rafi became a routine. But Niigaam’s destiny was beyond becoming a Rafi clone. At the age of 19 he moved to Bombay to seek his fortune as a Bollywood singer in the tinsel city. Lady luck smiled on him when “Accha Sila Diya” from the film Bewafa Sanam (1995) became the biggest hit of the year. There was no looking back.
In 1995, as the host of the TV hit series “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” Niigaam got an opportunity to showcase his own talent and warmth. He won the hearts of the audience and the performers making an indelible mark for himself as a critic, singer, and showman. His own singing hits followed. “Sandese Aate Hai” in Border and “Yeh Dil Dewana” in Pardes and established him as a significant voice in Bollywood singing.
Niigaam’s persona, however, surpasses that of a playback singer even though his “Kal Ho Na Ho” was as much of a hit as the blockbuster movie of the same name. He has his own albums in Hindi, Punjabi, and Kannada. He composes and directs his songs and continues to appear on hit TV shows as a judge and mentor. His versatility lends itself to different roles as well as a vast repertoire of emotions. He sings romantic and upbeat songs as effectively as tear jerkers. His patriotic songs are filled with gusto and pride. He can be playful or sad, plaintive or precocious, nostalgic or celebratory, all in that inimitable Sonu Niigaam style.
Perhaps Niigaam’s appeal lies in his intuitive rapport with his audience whether they are stomping or screaming in a live show or watching and warming up to him on the TV screen. He is funny, disarming, and never patronizing. Niigaam’s success and mentoring has inspired thousands of young singers in India who look upon him as their role model.
Niigaam attributes his fame and continued popularity to his relentless hard work, never taking success for granted, and continually reinventing himself to keep his performances fresh and edgy. His upcoming show will surely be demonstrative of this.
Deepak Mehta, the force behind Mehta Entertainment which is organizing Niigaam’s Bay Area concert, says he believes in promoting celebrities whose personal life makes them role models for youth. Mehta is an ardent Sonu Niigaam fan himself, not just for the marvelous melodies, he says, but also because Niigaam exhibits the work ethics, determination, and the desire to excel that have made Indian Americans shine in their chosen fields.
Saturday, June 18, 8 p.m. San Jose State University Event Center, 290 S. Seventh St., San Jose. $86-$216. Tickets: www.allgoodseats.com. www.sonuniigaam.in.