Legendary Pakistani singer Noorjehan has been named in the list of 20 greatest Bollywood singers of all time by UK based Eastern Eye newspaper. The Malika-e-Tarannum came in at number 16 despite only singing for Bollywood for a relatively short period of time before she migrated to Pakistan during partition. Eastern Eye entertainment editor Asjad Nazir, who compiled the list said Noorjehan made the list because of the incredible impact she made within Bollywood and outside it. “Noorjehan was the first female singing superstar of Indian cinema and helped laid the foundation for playback singing as we know it. She also inspired a generation of singers including Lata Mangeshkar before single-handedly kick-starting music in Pakistan and inspiring subsequent generations there,” said Asjad.
Asha Bhosle was declared the greatest Bollywood playback singer of all time. She beat off tough competition from the past 85 years including elder sister Lata Mangeshkar in a first of its kind list that takes into account factors including number of songs, honours, international impact, versatility, fan base and popularity amongst fellow music industry professionals. The evergreen 81-year-old was taken by surprise with the news of her topping the list. “I thought being called the greatest was the prerogative of boxer Muhammad Ali. I thank Eastern Eye and everyone for tolerating me all these years,” said Asha.
Whilst Lata Mangeshkar came second in the list of singers, Mohd Rafi came third and Kishore Kumar was fourth. Other names who featured in the top 20 included Alka Yagnik (6), current Bollywood music queen Shreya Ghoshal (7), Geeta Dutt (10), Sonu Nigam (14), Kumar Sanu (17) and Kavita Krishnamurthy (19). Asjad Nazir thinks Asha was a deserved choice to top the list. “Apart from being the most prolific singer the world has ever known, Asha’s versatility has given her the widest body of work ever for any Indian artist. An incredible career stretching across eight decades has seen the record-breaking singer take Bollywood music across different frontiers with interesting collaborations across the world,” said Asjad.
UK based singer Rita Morar who voted for Asha Bhosle to top the list described her as a phenomenon for what she has shared with the world musically. “Not only has she shown her versatility through songs like Piya Tu, Duniya Mein, Jaiye Aap Kaha and Dil Cheez Kya Hai, she has broken barriers of music genres and kept her power of emotion and energy in her music. That to me as an female artist is pure inspiration and encouraging,” said Rita Morar.
Rapper Swami Baracus said that Lata Mangeshkar had the bigger status, but Asha has been the greater singer. “The diverse range in Asha-ji’s voice gives her the vocal edge, but what really sets her apart is her versatility. High-profile International collaborations including Boy George, REM’s Michael Stipe, Kronos Quartet and even Australian cricketer Brett Lee have showcased her global appeal. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is something I’ve always adhered to musically, and Ashaji has been a true component of that on a global scale,” said Swami Baracus.
The full list of the greatest 20 Bollywood playback singers is published in Eastern Eye newspaper on June 26.