Till early 2000, I paid no attention to the music credits of an album/movie. I really didn't realize the importance of the singers contribution to the song. This could partially be because of my lack of exposure to music apart from Ilayaraja songs which (until then) featured the usual SPB, KJY, S. Janaki and Chitra. A.R. Rahman did introduce new singers in every album of his, but as I said I was not exposed too much to his songs.
Alaipayuthey's music in March/April 2000 made a big difference to my ears. The Bru coffee commercial with 'Snehidhane' in the backdrop made me wonder who sung this song. It surely was not Chitra, Sujatha, Kavitha Krishnamoorthi, Nithyashree or Harini (the ones that sung a lot of songs then). It surely was a North Indian singer, but not Alka Yagnik. I got the cassette of Alaipayuthey along with Kandukonden (both of them musical wonders) and went over the cover and it was a singer named Sadhana Sargam. I was like - 'Have I heard her before?, Why hasn't she been singing too many songs?.' Right after that I saw she had Konjum Mainakkale in Kandukonden. I started liking her a lot after 'Anbae Idhu Nijamthana' - which was a totally overlooked song in the album Rhythm. The instrumentation in the song is near perfect.
It was then that I started following the singers and I can proudly say - I can recognise most of the singers in songs (atleast until 2005 or 2006, now there are lot new singers).
Sadhana Sargam - She was, is and shall remain one of my favorite singers in Indian music. Her tamil pronunciation may have not be good during her initial years, but for a North Indian - she surely sings better off now with the subtleties in zh, la, and La these days. And probably, I didn't really understand the lyrics of the songs. She won a national award for rendering a Tamil song 'Pattu Solli', I felt it was not her best and definitely had better songs before that and after that. A few of her songs (actually many of them) which are my favorites (in no specific order) can be found at the end of this blog (I removed it from here since it was a tad too long list :P ):
In most of the songs, Sadhana was accompanied by Hariharan, who happens to be another of my favorite singers. Hariharan, introduced to the regular people like me by A.R.Rahman in Roja is probably one singer who does a lot of improvisations on stage and never will his rendition on stage sound like the actual one. With a crispy voice, he had gems like Pachai Nirame (Alaipayuthey), Vennilave, Poi Solla Koodathu Kaadali (Run), Uyire (Bombay), Ay Hairathey (Guru), Thottal Poo Malarum (New), Irava Pagala (Poovellam Kaettupar), Kandukonden, Nila Kaigiradhu (Indira), Nahin Samne (Taal), Yamuna Theeram (Anand) and many more. I was lucky enough to watch him perform live in Phoenix and also had a picture taken with him.
In 2002, I awaited for the movie that stirred up emotions - Kannathil Muthamittal. The title track sung by Chinmayi and Jayachandran was simply spectacular, and the versatile Chinmayi found a fan in me. Her song for the TV soap - Anbulla Snehithiye is probably one of the very few title tracks of soaps that was remembered for its softness and sereneness (as opposed to the loud ones). Chinmayi has evolved as a successful film singer, RJ, TV anchor, dubbing artiste apart from the classical singer and dancer she originally is. A few of her songs that are my favorites - Tere Bina (Guru), I Miss you da (Sakkarakatti), Oru Nanban Irundhal (Ennake 20 Unakku 18), Santipomma (E20U18), Oru Deivam Thantha (Kannathil), Sahana Saaral (Sivaji), En Uyir Thozhiye (Kangalal Kaidhu Sei), Enna Ithu (Nala Damayanthi), Enadhuyirae (Bheema). As a dubbing artiste she did a real good job in Jillunu Oru Kadhal, amongst many others. She also was a good anchor on the show Airtel Super singer.
Speaking of Super Singer, the three judges on the show - Unnikrishnan, Sujatha Mohan and Sreenivas have been my favorite singers at some point of time. Unnikrishnan had gems in Ennavale (Kadalan - his very first song), Narumughaye (Iruvar), Kuliruthu (Taj Mahal), Sudum Nilavu (Thambi), Verenna (Minnale), Poovukkul (Jeans), Kaatre En Vaasal (Rhythm), Thirakadha (En Swaasa Katre), O Vennila (Kadhal Desam), Thendrale (Kadhal Desam), Veesum Katrukku (Ullasam), Nejodu Kalanthidu (Kadhal Konden).
Srinivas - the melody breaker 'Netru Munniravil Unnil' in Snehidhane is probably the only male singer with such a soft voice who made it big by singing select songs that provided justice to him and the song. His 'Mangalyam thanthunanena' will probably have taught most people (including me) the unforgettable wedding sthotram. 'Kaisi Hai Yeh Rut' from Dil Chahta Hai is one of the unforgettable melodies in Hindi cinema. Add Azhage Sugama (Paarthale Paravasam), Ennai Panthada (Ullam Ketkume), Kadhal Solvadhu (Badri), Chotta Chotta (Taj Mahal), Alangatti Mazhai (Thenali) to the list of my favorite songs. His one minute song - Mouname Unnidam from Mozhi was a good one and and fitted well in the movie too. The fast-paced Asathura in E20U18 was yet another song by this soft-spoken singer.
Sujatha mesmerized everyone in Netru Illada Maatram from Pudhya Mugham. Re-discovered by A.R.Rahman in Pudhu Vellai Mazhai (Roja), Sujatha was an integral part of many good albums that came out in the late 90's and early 2000's. Poo Pookkum Osai (Minsara Kanavu), Athisayam (Jeans), En Veettu Thottathil (Gentleman), Nejodu Kalanthidu (Kadhal Konden), Aasai Aasai (Dhool), Ishq Bina (Taal), Paadava (Little John), are few of my favorite songs of this ever-smiling singer whose daughter is beginning to make waves in the music world.
To be continued.... with many other singers and their songs.
Sadhana Sargam favorites:
Vennilave (Chanda Re) - Minsara Kanavu (Sapnay)
Chudithar Anindhu - Poovellam Kaettupar
Snehidhane (Chupke Se) - Alaipayuthey (Saathiya)
Anbae Idhu - Rhythm
Anbae Sugama and Azhage Sugama - Paarthale Paravasam
Dil Mera Ek Tara - 16 December
Pehla Nasha - Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander
Akkam Pakkam - Kireedam
Swaasame - Thenali
Amma Un Pillai - Naan Kadavul
Udhaya Udhaya Ularaile - Udhaya
Naina Neer Bahai, Piya Ho, Aayo Re - Water
Poo Vaasam - Anbe Sivam
Merke Merke - Kanda Naal Mudhal
Ragasiyamai and Un Perai Sonnale - Dum Dum Dum
Aao Naa - Kyun Ho Gaya Naa
Kitni Baatein - Lakshya
Kuch Naa Kaho - Kuch Naa Kaho
Gup Chup Baatein - Love You Hamesha (unreleased)
Ahista Ahista - Swades
Pani Katre - Run
Manmadhanae - Manmadhan
Kaadu Thiranthe - Vasool Raja MBBS
Kadhal Vandhadhum - Poovellam Un Vaasam
Kadhal Vettukili - Parasuram
Enadhuyire - Bheema
Kalaiyil Dhinamum - New
Thigu Thigu - Ah Aah
And I guess this list got a little too long :) .