Kavita KrishnamurthyView in iTunes
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During the '80s and especially the '90s, Kavita Krishnamurthy (or Krishnamurti, depending on who Anglicizes the spelling) rocketed to stardom as one of the most versatile and technically gifted female singers in the music-reliant Indian film industry. Krishnamurthy was equally at home singing romantic ballads and popular tunes, or artier, more complex fare; her skill at the latter eventually drew her into a creative -- and romantic -- partnership with violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam by the close of the '90s. Born Sharda Krishnamurthy in the South Indian city of Delhi, she came from an artistic background: Her father worked for the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry, and her mother loved classical Indian music and dance, making sure that Kavita began taking lessons at a young age. Although it would have made more sense for Kavita to begin training in the Carnatic style, her mother knew of no high-quality Carnatic teachers nearby, so Kavita started out by learning Hindustani classical music. Her Bengali aunt and uncle -- with whom young Kavita spent a great deal of time, to the point where she looked upon them as second parents -- influenced her to learn the Bengali style Rabindra Sangeet as well. In 1971, still a child, Kavita made her first film recording, a Bengali duet with the legendary Lata Mangeshkar that was conducted by singer/composer Hemant Kumar. Kavita moved with her aunt to Mumbai (Bombay), not only to attend college (where she received a degree in economics), but to attempt to break into the film industry as a singer. While at college, she met Ranu Mukherjee, Hemant Kumar's daughter, who reintroduced Krishnamurthy to her father. Kumar began using Krishnamurthy as a vocalist for his live performances; soon, Krishnamurthy was performing with music director Manna Dey and finding work singing commercial jingles. Additionally, through her aunt's contacts (including a good friend, the mother of actress Hema Malini), Krishnamurthy met composer Laxmikant (one-half of the legendary Laxmikant/Pyarelal duo, who dominated Indian film music in the '70s and '80s) in late 1976. Impressed by Krishnamurthy's skills, Laxmikant offered her work as a dubbing vocalist, cutting demos of songs intended for superstar female singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. 1980's "Kaahe Ko Byaahi" was the first song to be featured in a film using Krishnamurthy's own vocal, but it took until 1985 for her to land her first major hit, "Tumse Milkar Na Jaane Kyon." This opened up opportunities for Krishnamurthy outside of the Laxmikant/Pyarelal camp, in which she had worked almost exclusively up to that point; while she broadened her horizons recording songs by other composers (as well as for television), she still continued to work with her early advocates, who provided most of her hits during the '80s. She scored huge hits with the tune "Hawa Hawai" and the Anu Malik composition "Julie Julie," among many others. By the early '90s, the Laxmikant/Pyarelal juggernaut was finally beginning to run out of steam. Krishnamurthy, however, had achieved enough of a reputation that other filmmakers and musicians were eager to work with her. 1994 proved a watershed year for Krishnamurthy's career: music director R.D. Burman staged a dazzling comeback with 1942: A Love Story, for which he used Krishnamurthy as the only soundtrack vocalist; and Viju Shah recorded the smash duet "Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast" for the film Mohra with her. By the time the dust settled, Krishnamurthy was arguably the most popular contemporary female vocalist in Indian film, landing several monster hits from 1942 (including "Kyon Naye Lag Rahe" and "Rimjhim Rimjhim") and winning several awards, including the coveted Filmfare award (the Indian equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Female Playback Singer for the song "Pyaar Hua Chupke Se." Over the '90s, Krishnamurthy worked with the cream of Indian film music, including Anu Malik, Jatin/Lalit, A.R. Rahman, and Nadeem/Shravan, among many others; during 1995 and 1996, she extended her string of consecutive Filmfare awards to three, with the second and third coming for Yaraana's "Mera Piya Ghar" and Khamoshi's "Aaj Main Upar," respectively. The hits kept on coming, and most fans agreed that the quality of her work was better than ever. In 1999, violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam recruited Krishnamurthy as a vocalist for his Global Fusion opus, coveting her versatility for a project dedicated to blending a tremendous variety of Asian and Western musics. The two became fascinated with each other outside of the musical realm as well, and married not long after. Krishnamurthy began splitting her time between further collaborations with the sometime U.S.-based Subramaniam, her continued work in the Bombay film industry, and her home base of Bangalore. ~ Steve Huey