Early years and playback singing
Sonu Nigam began his singing career at the age of three, when he joined his father on stage to sing Mohammad Rafi’s “Kya Hua Tera Wada, Wo Kasam Wo Irada.” From then on, Sonu accompanied his father on his singing appearances at weddings and parties. In his teenage years, Nigam participated in several music competitions successfully. He moved to Mumbai with his father to begin his Bollywood singing career at the age of 19.
His initial years in Mumbai proved to be a struggle, beginning by singing covers of Mohammad Rafi songs, mainly for a number of “Rafi Ki Yaadein” albums released by T-Series. T-Series promoter Gulshan Kumar played a key role in identifying Sonu’s talent and giving him a chance to reach a larger audience. These albums contributed to T-Series for some years although Sonu’s singing style was regarded by some as like a “Rafi clone.” Nigam’s first movie song as a playback singer was in the film Janam (1990), which was never officially released. Sonu also got a break in several radio commercials until he appeared on the popular TV show Sa Re Ga Ma, after which there was no turning back. The format of that show gave him a chance to showcase his singing skills including his later well-known natural charm and audience appeal. Then he sang “Accha Sila Diya” on the album Bewafa Sanam (1995), which established his status as a recognized playback singer.
Sonu then started hosting Sa Re Ga Ma, a television singing talent competition, which soon became one of the most popular shows on Indian television. The first episode of “Sa Re Ga Ma” was aired on 1 May 1995. Singing offers poured in thereafter, albeit slowly at first. He rose to fame with the Anu Malik composed song “Sandese Aate Hain,” in Border in 1997. Sonu’s image as a Rafi clone changed after his rendition of the Nadeem-Shravan composed song “Yeh Dil Deewana” in Pardes in the same year. Since then, he has created a unique style of his own, and has become a role model for emerging vocal talent in India.
Over the years, Sonu has become a major force in the Indian music industry. He has provided playback singing for a large number of Hindi movies and won many awards. His rendition of the title song of the film Kal Ho Na Ho has been highly popular and is considered a modern legend of sorts. He is recognised for his versatile voice as well as excellent emotion range. Sonu has sung with clear pronunciations, in many languages besides Hindi, including Bengali, Oriya, Kannada, Punjabi,Tamil, Telugu, English, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Nepali and Marathi. He remains particularly popular in Southern India for his Kannada songs and has won a few awards in this particular industry.His Kannada album called Neene Bari Neene released all over in 2009.
His 2008 playback songs include songs from Yuvvraaj and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. In the latter, he pays tribute to Bollywood actors of the past like Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand and Rishi Kapoor. The song is in a Shahrukh Khan film and the music direction is by Salim-Sulaiman.
Pop albums and concerts
Nigam in concert
Sonu has released a number of pop albums, both in Hindi and in Punjabi. The very recent addition to this list is “Classically Mild”. He has also released several devotional albums, both Hindu and Islamic ones, as well as albums of Mohammad Rafi’s songs. These are from the “Rafi Ki Yaadein” collection in his early years, although they have been re-released in September 2007 as a 6-disc collection of 100 songs , titled “Kal Aaj Aur Kal”, in Mohammad Rafi’s memory.. In 2008, soon after releasing “Classically Mild”, he released a single Punjabi track called “Punjabi Please”, and “Rafi Resurrected”, a 2-disc collection of Mohammad Rafi songs with music by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Over the years. Sonu has given concert performances in many countries, including United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Russia, Afghanistan, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bangkok, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, West Indies, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa. In May/June 2007, he participated in a star-studded show in North America called “The Incredibles” in which famed Asha Bhonsle and recent singing sensations, Kunal Ganjawala and Kailash Kher, participated. In September and October, respectively, of the same year, he gave solo concerts titled, “Simply Sonu”, in Canada and Germany, (becoming the first Indian singer to perform in the latter country). In April 2008, he did a marathon of concerts in various cities in India, promoting his Punjabi single “Punjabi Please”.
In November 2007, at the inauguration of Harvard University’s 28th president, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, Sonu sang with the Harvard College Sangeet the late Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan, ” Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye”.
In July 2008, he participated in a three-city tour of the United Kingdom, singing numerous famous Mohammad Rafi songs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. This followed the release of these songs by the CBSO and the Indian music company Sa Re Ga Ma in a historic album entitled “Rafi Resurrected”.
He is currently participating in a US tour with Sunidhi Chauhan called “The Explosion 2009” tour. On 29 August 2009, he released a Michael Jackson tribute song on YouTube composed by Saikat-Shankar with 6 other singers worldwide.
Television, radio and acting
Besides “Sa Re Ga Ma,” Sonu Nigam also hosted the TV show “Kisme Kitna Hai Dum” and has appeared as a celebrity talent judge on the show Indian Idol (aired on Sony Entertainment Television) seasons 1 and 2. Sonu returned to Indian Idol in its third and fourth seasons as a judge. He was also a celebrity judge on Amul Star Voice of India in August 2007 in season 1 and in December 2008 in season 2. In October 2007, Sonu returned to the sets of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (formerly called Sa Re Ga Ma and again hosted by himself) in a historical moment of sorts, this time as a judge along with Suresh Wadkar. This was for the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs International part of the show.
In 2006, Sonu also hosted his own radio show called ‘Life Ki Dhun With Sonu Niigaam’ on Radiocity 91.1 FM, where he had the opportunity to interview several music industry greats, including the legendary Lata Mangeshkar.
Sonu’s acting career started as a child artist in a number of films including 1983’s Betaab. As an adult, Sonu has acted in a few more films, namely Jaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani alongside Sunny Deol, Manisha Koirala and Akshay Kumar as well as other actors; Kash Aap Hamare Hote, where he plays the male lead opposite Juhi Babbar, daughter of Raj Babbar; and most recently, Love in Nepal with ‘Flora Saini’ and ‘Sweta Keswani,’ where he again plays a leading role. However it is to be said that all three films have not done well at the box-office. although his acting was much better appreciated in his last venture. He has not taken up acting since his last venture Love in Nepal, but has recently been said to be involved in another film as a lead actor. The film, called ‘Ankhon Ankhon Mein’ is supposedly about a blind singer.
His future projects include an English album called Spirit Unfolding. He may be acting in a new film called Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein, about a blind singer, although he has not officially signed it yet. He is also doing playback singing for a number of upcoming films, including Chandan Arora’s Striker, Yaariyan, Run Mein Fun and Three Idiots starring Aamir Khan, with Shantanu Moitra as music director. He is also singing two songs for the film Blue: “Chiggy Wiggy” with Australian artiste Kylie Minogue and Rehnuma with Shreya Ghoshal to the music of Oscar winner A.R. Rahman. He has already recorded “Don’t Say Alvida” for the movie Main Aur Mrs. Khanna starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor. He lent his voice to the title track and “Aashique Tumse Hi” for Karan Johar’s My Name Is Khan. He has worked with Rahman on Raavan also .
In a recent interview, he confirmed that he is working on a new Kannada album to be released this year and is thinking about a project on Manna Dey. He also revealed that there are plans for the Rafi Resurrected concerts to happen in the rest of Europe, the United States and India soon.
Personal life And Voluntary Work
Sonu was born to Mr Agam Kumar Nigam and Mrs Shobha Nigam on 30 July 1973 in Faridabad, Haryana, India. He attended the J.D. Tytler School. He has two sisters, Meenal and Neekita. Sonu is very close to his parents. Both his father and mother are good singers, and in 2005 and 2007 his father released two highly popular albums, “Bewafaai” and “Phir Bewafaai”, respectively. Neekita is also a singer. She has sung a few playback songs and appeared on a few stage shows with Sonu. Sonu married Madhurima on 15 February 2002. They have a son, Nevaan, born on 25 July 2007.
He is very much into fitness and yoga exercises, and has even trained in taekwondo. He claims to be spiritual rather than religious. He used to be keen at his studies in his younger age and enjoys reading. He also enjoys mimicry and commonly mimics other singers in Bollywood.
Sonu has done various charity work all over India as well as abroad for Dignity Foundation, Cancer organizations, Leprosy organizations, Blindness organizations, Women’s welfare organizations, Kargil war affected families, Earthquake affected families. He also sponsors a child from the organization “Crayon”.