Hariharan is an Indian playback singer in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam,Kannada and Telugu movies, an established ghazal singer, and one of the pioneers of Indian fusion music.
Hariharan grew up in Mumbai in a Tamil brahmin Iyer family, and has bachelor degrees in science and law. The son of renowned Carnatic vocalists, Shrimati Alamelu and the late H.A.S. Mani (full name:anantha Subramani Iyer), Hariharan inherited his parents' musical talents. Alamelu was Hariharan's first guru (mentor).
From here he picked up Carnatic music skills. He was also exposed to Hindustani music from a young age. In his teens, inspired by the songs of Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh, Hariharan developed a passion for ghazals and started training in Hindustani music from Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. He used to put in nine hours of singing practice everyday.
The committed Hariharan also put heart and soul into learning Urdu when he decided to become a ghazal singer. He has perfected his Urdu diction to such standards that even his audiences in Lucknow, the heartland of the language, have been wowed over.
In 1977, Hariharan bagged the top prize in the All-India Sur Singaar competition and was promptly signed on by the late music director Jaidev to sing for the Hindi film Gaman. His debut song "Ajeeb Saaneha Mujh Par Guzar Gaya Yaaron" in that movie became such a hit that it won Hariharan an Uttar Pradesh state award, as well as a Best Singer National Award nomination, and Hariharan's playback singing career took off.
Rise to fame
At the start of his career, Hariharan did the concert circuit and also performed on TV. He sang for a number of TV serials (e.g., Junoon). In addition, he cut several successful ghazal albums, writing most of the scores himself. One of Hariharan's first ghazal albums was "Abshaar-e-Ghazal" with Asha Bhonsle, which went gold in sales. Another outstanding ghazal album was "Gulfam", which not only hit double platinum in sales but also fetched Hariharan the Diva Award for the Best Album of the Year in 1994.
Hariharan entered the world of Tamil films in 1992 introduced by debutant music director A.R Rahman with the patriotic song "Thamizha Thamizha" in Maniratnam's film Roja. He was judged best male playback singer in the 1995 Tamil Nadu State Government Film Awards for his soulful rendition of the song "Uyire Uyire" also by music director A.R Rahman in Maniratnam's Bombay (Hariharan sang the song with K.S. Chitra).
Hariharan has been one of the most trusted singer of A R Rahman and has sung many songs for him in long list of movies that includes Roja, Minsara Kanavu, Jeans, Indian, Mudhalvan, Taal, Bombay, Rangeela, Indira, Iruvar, Anbe Aaruyire, Kangalal Kaithu Sei, Sivaji, Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal,Guru etc. In 1998, Hariharan won the national award for the best playback singer for the soulful rendition of the song "mere dushman mere bhai" from the Hindi movie Border, composed by Anu Malik.
He has sung more than 500 Tamil songs which is his highest in his career.
The year 1996 was a career milestone; he released the fusion album Colonial Cousins with Bombay-based composer/singer Leslie Lewis. This was the first Indian act to be featured on MTV Unplugged. It won a string of awards including the MTV Indian Viewers' Choice award.
Hariharan has also acted in a Tamil film with Khushboo, titled Power of Women & also played cameo roles in the Tamil film Boys & the Malayalam film Millennium Stars.
In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri and Yesudas Award for his outstanding performance in music.
Hariharan also collaborated with Pakistan based band Strings for a track called "bolo bolo". Hariharan released an album called destiny with Punjabi / bhangra artiste Daler Mehndi. His newest Ghazal album "Lahore ke rang, Hari ke sang" with renowned ghazal composers from Pakistan won him rave reviews and critical acclaim inside and outside india.
He also coined the terminology "Urdu Blues" with his immensely successful album "Kaash" which featured musicians like Anandan Sivamani the percussion maestro, Ustaad Rashid Mustafa on tabla, Ustad Liyaqat Ali Khan on Sitar & Ustad Sultan Khan on Sarangi. Hariharan also worked with tabla maestro Zakir Hussain on his ghazal album Haazir. He also had the chance to sing in front of Sathya Sai Baba 2 years ago.