Early Childhood


My First reward for singing


Quest for music

  A short stint away from home
  My first encounter with a microphone
  Professional singing...Opera Music circle
  Shabbir Shaikh become Shabbir Kumar
  Filling the void for Rafi Sahab
  My door to playback singing
  Chance encounter with Laxmikant Pyarelal
  List of Music Directors I have worked with

We have heard his enchanting voice and have danced to his songs since years. The mystical voice has been a part of our life for more than 3 decades now and even till date we feel the warmth of his music in our souls, but seldom to we realize what transpired a journey this big ? How did a small town boy go on to become a replica and eventually went on to fill the void of the great Rafi Sahab ?

Fans and followers world wide know the Shabbir Kumar they have heard only on screen, but the real persona has many more shades.

Read on to know some of the most rare, personal,  yet interesting anecdotes and facts, as narrated by the man himself.

"Early Childhood"
Born in Baroda on 26th October in a house of an officer from the Revenue Department, Shabbir Shaikh (former name) never had an inclination towards music. Singing and Music was never an ambition for young Shabbir, in fact just like every other ordinary man he was also foreseen following footsteps of his father in a reputed white collar Government job.

Till 7th Standard he was studying in a place where there were only 9 houses in the vicinity and electricity was a word people would hardly be familiar with. Right from childhood he was very good at studies and painting. Shabbir's mom used to sing the "Naath Qalaam" for the kids quite often, it was this melodious voice that drew his interest towards music. He started emulating his mom and with time people around started taking notice.

"My First reward for singing"
In the night people from the neighborhood would assemble around tea stalls around the junction. Having known Shabbir's forte in singing they used to call him from his house and ask him to sing Movie songs. Young Shabbir would find this attention very interesting and in turn he would sing songs like "Zara Samne to aa Chaliye.." The reward that he would get for the songs would be Mango Papad's,something which he still cherishes because this was the first reward he got for this talent .As the man recalls,
 this was the first song he had heard remotely somewhere on the radio. This song was actually sung by Lata ji and Rafi Sahab. Little did he know that his destiny would make him rub shoulders with these legends in the near future.

"School days"
When young Shabbir moved on to the 8th std he came to Baroda (which is now his native) to pursue further studies. His Dad was extremely strict about music, the irony being that he himself was a very good singer. But since the idea of being a professional singer was never perceived in those days his father always wanted him to follow his footsteps and join him in the revenue department.

"Quest for music"
In Baroda where he used to live, a Radio was a priced possession. Only 3 people in the vicinity had the privilege of owning one and unfortunately Shabbir was not one of them. So as a kid curiosity took over him and he was always drawn towards those houses where these radios use to play and with great joy he used to have his ears glued to their walls for hours, all this for the love of music.

"A short stint away from home"
At the age of 14, Shabbir's dad decided to send him to a boarding school away from the city. Glittering life of the city and too much of distraction had his grades dropping in school, it was this reason that had prompted his dad to take this step.
The boarding was in a very backward area and the school was in shatters. But the promise he had given his dad made him pursue studies in this terrible circumstances.
This stint however came as a blessing in disguise, during this short stay that lasted 6-7 months he made friends with some of the best people he could ever know. He learnt some of the toughest lessons in life which made him come through obstacles and difficulties at a very tender age. Having a crash course in life, Shabbir had learn to cook, wash clothes, clean his room and above live independently.

"My Painting was my first source of income.."
In 1964-65, he returned to his hometown Baroda. In his quest to be independent and support his education he took the step of taking up his first professional assignment, painting. Painting was something that was god gifted and that is what actually helped him in earning his money. In the early 60's Shabbir used to paint banners for blockbuster movies like 'Dadima' and 'Mamta' . These movies were his first brush with the glamour world. And to note an interesting fact his art would yield him Rs 2/- per painting, an irony for a legendary singer.

"Different jobs, hard times.."
My mom always wanted me to take up a permanent job. As an obedient son he did not want to disappoint them. After repeated attempts to try his luck with the Electric Board officer, who was very well known to his family, Shabbir took up a daily wages job with the corporation. His hardships continued as he had to travel 2 hours daily and change 2 buses to reach the destination of work. This, just to see his mom happy.
The job did not last for long and during this period he used to sell biscuits and repair cycle punctures to make a living.
But as they say, a capable man finds his way even through the most darkest streets.

"My first encounter with a microphone"
As he entered his mid-teens, whenever he used to meet his friends during a local function or a local orchestra,
 Shabbir used to hum songs of Rafi Sahab. His friends always used to find resemblance in his voice with Rafi Sahab. This inspired him and his interest in music started budding.

One day when Shabbir was going with his friends on a usual night out, they came across a group that was performing a non stop 48 hours cycle relay. There was a person on the microphone who was calling out people to be a part of the audience. His friends immediately pushed him to go on and take the microphone in the hand and entertain people. It was this instance when he sang the first ever song on a microphone, "Kya se kyah hogaya,bewafa tere pyaar mein" from the movie Guide. No one noticed this though, this moment went down in his heart as his first public performance.

"Professional singing...Opera Music circle"
Opera Music Circle was one of the most prestigious orchestra groups in India. On insistence of his friends he visited their office and gave an audition. But this effort was also in vain.
It was only after Shabbir participated in a Singing competition that he came in the limelight and was noticed by the Opera Music Circle. The song that he sang on stage was "Watan pe jo fida hoga,amar wo nao java hoga" (it was Indo china war at that time)
After that he was picked up by the Opera Music Circle where he rubbed shoulders with some of the industry stalwarts.

"Shabbir Shaikh become Shabbir Kumar"
In 1967 Shabbir sang first time on stage the song of Rafi Sahab, it was Shivaji Jayanti and the song was "Mere Dushman tu meri dosti ko tarse". It was after this that he associated himself with the name 'Kumar', this marked the beginning of the journey that epitomizes the evolution of Shabbir Shaikh to Shabbir Kumar.
Shabbir Kumar, the name sent out a strong message to the world that a community or caste does not become a hurdle for a singer. A singers voice and talent stands for his own religion that is, music. The biggest testimony he could give the world was that he married a Brahmin girl.

"Filling the void for Rafi Sahab"
In 1980 after the death of Rafi Sahab, Shabbir Kumar was poured in with offers from different show organizers who wanted to cash in on the void that was left after the sudden sad demise. But being judicious he joined hands with a person who genuinely wanted to do something for the love of music and Rafi Sahab. This troop was named "Ek Shaam Rafi ke naam"
As expected the group became very popular and as a charity the group owners decided to give away the profit share of the first 10 shows to a charitable organization. In those days the group used to perform 50 shows in 30 days. A record in its own.

"My door to playback singing"
Usha Khanna, India's first female music director heard Shabbir Kumar in a show and immediately called him for an audition in her office. In the audition he sang 2-3 songs of Rafi Sahab and she almost broke into tears in his memory.

After 10 days he got a call from her and she offered him his first playback song alongside stalwarts like Suresh Wadkar, Amit Kumar, Hem Lata and Usha Khanna herself. Which was a group song for the film "Tajurba","hum ek nahi, hum do nahi..hum hai poore paanch"

It was a tough experience since things were much different than signing on stage. This was a full fledged play back recording studio where it would even pick a whisker. But when the song came on screen it had the essence of stardom.

His first solo song was in the film "Sardar"  in 1981 for actor 'Raj Kiran' the song being "Ek akela man ka panchi tuti aas liye.." This song cemented his place in the playback world.

"Chance encounter with Laxmikant Pyarelal"
Amidst all this Shabbir Kumar continued stage shows in Baroda. One fine day he got a call from Laxmikant Pyarelal, this was a shocking phone call since this put him in a completely different league of singers.

After the first audition in Mumbai, Shabbir Kumar was recalled in the evening at the same location. In the evening he was startled to see Anand Bakshi, Manmohan Desai, Laxmikant  Pyarelal. They asked him to sing again and this time it was with a background of 160 piece orchestra in Mehmood studio and a chorus of 25 singers. The song that was given to him was "Mubarak ho tum sabko haj ka mahina" from Coolie.

Later the team of Coolie heard this song on 70MM screen on the profile of Amitabh Bachan and they found the voice suits him perfectly. This prompted Manmohan Desai and Laxmikant Pyarelal to officially declare Shabbir Kumar to playback singing for all the songs of the movie Coolie.

The rest as they say was history ..


Shabbir Kumar sang for all the leading music directors including

  • Naushad
  • O.P. Nayyar
  • Chitragupt
  • Shankar Jaikishen
  • Usha Khanna
  • Laxmikant-Pyarelal
  • R.D. Burman
  • Kalyanji Anandji
  • Bappi Lahiri
  • Ravindra Jain
  • Rajesh Roshan
  • Annu Malik
  • Uttam Singh
  • Ram Laxman
  • Nadeem Shravan
  • Anand Milind
  • Himesh Reshamiya
  • Ismail Darbar
  • Shankar Eshan Loy
  • A.R.Rahman

and many more..

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