The Legendary Singer Usha Utup who is also regarded as ‘’Didi of Bengal’’ was born in a Tamil family on November 8, 1947 in Bombay state (now Mumbai) she studied at St. Agnes High School, Byculla. When she was in school she was thrown out of music class because she didn’t fit in with a voice like hers. But her music teacher recognized that she had some music in her and would give her clappers or triangles to play.
Even though Usha Uthup was not formally trained in music, she grew up in an atmosphere of music. Her parents used to listen to a wide range from Western classical to Hindustani and Carnatic including Kishori Amonkar and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan on radio and she used to join them. She used to enjoy listening to Radio Ceylon.
Usha Uthup got a kick start from her neighbor was S.M.A. Pathan, who was then the deputy commissioner of police. His daughter, Jamila, influenced Usha Uthup to learn Hindi and take up Indian classical music. This fusion approach helped her to pioneer her unique brand of Indian pop in the 1970s.
Usha Uthup’s father was a policeman, who rose to become Deputy Commissioner of police, Bombay. Her mother, a simple, yet well read, intelligent Indian housewife. Her elder sisters,
lndira and Uma, were the famous singing Sami sisters.
Uma Pocha in a Doctor,
Maya Sami is a Singer too and
Indira Shrivadhanis a travel industry executive.
Usha Uthup is married to Mr Jani Chacko Uthup who is a Businessman in Kolkata.
Usha Uthup was blessed with two children in her life. A daughter and a son.
Daughter’s name is Anjali Uthup who is a radio jockey.
Son’s name is Sunny Uthup who is an event manager who manages various types of events.
Usha Uthup and family is currently residing in Kolkata, West Bengal.
Usha Uthup started singing when she was mere 9 years old and it was a public singing. Usha ji’s sisters who already started to explore their life and experience in the world of music introduced her to Ameen Sayani who was a radio announcer in those days. The radio announcer Ameen Sayani gave Usha Uthup an opportunity to sing in the ‘Ovatline Music Hour Of Radio Ceylon’
She sang a number called “Mocking Bird”.
After this mind blowing singing there were numerous chances for her to sing during her teenage years and days, she got many opportunities.
Usha Uthup started her music career in Chennai in 1969, singing in a small nightclub called Nine Gems in the basement of the erstwhile Safire Theatre complex on Mount Road, wearing a saree and leg calipers.
Her performance was so well received that the owner of the nightclub asked her to stay on for a week.
After her first night club gig, she began singing in Calcutta at night clubs such as “Trincas“. She met her future husband Uthup in Trincas.
At about the same time, she also sang at “Talk of the Town”, now known as “Not Just Jazz by the Bay” in Bombay (now Mumbai).After Trincas, her next engagement took her to Delhi where she sang at the Oberoi hotels. By happenstance, a film crew belonging to Navketan unit and Dev Anand visited the nightclub and they offered her a chance to sing movie playback.
She started her Bollywood career with Ivory- Merchant’s Bombay Talkies in 1970.
In which she sang an English number under Shanker-Jaikishan and then Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
Originally, she was supposed to sing Dum Maro Dum along with Asha Bhosle for Hare Rama Hare Krishna. However, as a result of internal politicking on the part of other singers, she lost that chance but ended up singing an English verse.
In 1968, she recorded covers of two pop songs in English, “Jambalaya”
and The Kingston Trio’s “Greenback Dollar”, on an EP, Love Story, and “Scotch and Soda”, another Kingston Trio song, which sold very well in the Indian market. She also spent some time in London during this early period. She was a frequent visitor to Vernon Corea’s BBC office at the Langham in London and was interviewed on London Sounds Eastern on BBC Radio London. Usha Uthup visited Nairobi as part of an Indian festival.
She was so popular that she was invited to stay on Singing and quite often nationalistic songs in Swahili made her extremely popular and the then President Jomo Kenyatta made her an Honorary Citizen of Kenya. She sang the famous song “Malaika” (‘Angel’) with Fadhili Williams who was the original singer. She produced a record “Live in Nairobi” with a local band Fellini Five. Usha Uthup sang several songs in the 1970s and 1980s for music directors R.D Burman (Rahul Dev Burman) and Bappi Lahiri . She also reprised some of Rahul. Dev. Burman songs that were sung by others such as “Mehbooba’‘
Dum Maro Dum
which are “Indian Rhymes for Indian Kids“, brought out by Karadi Tales.
The rhymes reflect the Indian ethos through the Sa-re-ga-ma, mangoes, Indian rivers, the train experiences, Indian festivals, indigenous trees, Cricket, Indian foods like bhelpuri and sambhar, Indian attire like the dhoti, sari, bindi and bangles and even some folk tales. With each rhyme set to an Indian raga, and sung in her characteristic voice with a feisty tempo. Usha creates the atmosphere for children and, surprisingly, even adults to sing along and dance to the toe-tapping beats. She is a stage performer and gave performances all over the world. And is known for her lively stage presence.
She recorded her first album with Luis Banks for which she was paid Rs. 3500.
Since then, she has recorded numerous albums. Usha’s Hindi version of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”, titled
“Chhupke Kaon Aya”
can be found on the album Tom Middleton – The Trip (2004).
A cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is on another Tom Middleton album, Cosmosonica – Tom Middleton presents Crazy Covers Volume 1 (2005).
She recorded a song called “Rhythm and Blues” with the Indian rock band Parikrama which appeared on Channel V on 23 April 2007.
Usha Uthup is also an actress, often singing and acting in India’s signature musical films. She acted in “Pothen Vava” a Malayalam movie in 2006 as Kurisuveettil Mariyamma.
She made a cameo appearance in the movie “Bombay To Goa” with Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha in 1972.
In 2007, she appeared in “Bow Barracks Forever” directed by Anjan Dutt as herself. Again in 2007, she appeared in “Hattrick” music video as herself.
Usha Uthup appeared as a judge on a singing reality show,
Bharat Ki Shaan: Singing Star of India Season 2 (2012), aired on DD National channel, along with Ismail Darbar.
She is the judge in the Season 3 of the show as well. She also appeared as a chief guest.
for Marathi singing reality show. She entertained the audience with Marathi songs.
And as we know as her popularity in Mumbai is very much but her own land Kolkata they call her DIDI because of her immense popularity and her magical voice would always bring people’s heart out and they felt alive.
She was also called on a Bengali “Kaun banega Crorepati” called Ke hobe banglar Kotipoti.
Working with the Legends.
Rambha Ho ho
Uri Uri Baba
Aami Shotti Bolchhi
Hari Om hari
Tu Mujhe Jaan se bhi
Na Main hu tera
Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer – 7Khoon Maaf.
Kalakar Award – Best Audio Album (Bangla) –
Best Playback Singer for the Film – Kabhi Pa Liya To Kabhi Kho Diya.
Ramba Mein Samba.
Mirchi Music Awards – Female Vocalist of the year – Darling.
Padma Shri Award –