November/December  2006




Nov / Dec Contents 

 Real Issues
 Pakistan earthquake -
 a year later


 Saving Kos Minars

 Bodh - four 8000m
 peaks climbed

 Treasures of the
 Thunder Dragon

 Deepak Mehta
 - a legend at 24

 Usha Uthup - still
 rocking at 58


 the craft shop

 the print gallery

 the art gallery


 Between Heaven and Hell

  Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in








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Amrit Anand


Usha Uthup enchants the audiences with her sheer energy and ergo… silk saris, gajras and glass bangles all intact as they were in the swinging sixties…


She started singing four decades ago and today at 58 she is a proud grandmother. Yet, her vocal chords boom the way they did way back in the sixties and there is still a raw energy that permeates her music.

"I want to laugh till I cry, and sing till I die," says Usha Uthup as she releases yet another feet-tapping album, We Believe in Now. But this one is for a cause - the entire proceeds would go to the Tsunami victims.

"This is a collector’s item," says Usha about the album that was released by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. It’s a collector’s item in the sense that 75 top singers of India have lent their voices to 10 songs in four different languages.

"The idea was to bring together the best Indian contemporary musicians who would bring out through their music the human ability to overcome tragedy, pain and sorrow. I hope our effort brings some joy in the lives of those devastated by the Tsunami," say Usha about the album that has a voiceover by Amitabh Bachchan.

The singing diva brushes aside the fact that over two years have passed since the disaster and the album might be a trifle late. "It’s never too late to say I care or I love you. It is the effort and passion that counts. If the proceeds from this album can bring a smile on the faces of the victims, it would be like a million admirers applauding the music."

Indeed, there has been no dearth of admirers as far as the Indi-pop diva’s singing abilities are concerned. And not just in India but around the world. That’s because Usha Uthup sings in more than thirteen Indian and eight foreign languages.

She is a well-known name in Kenya, where she is invited repeatedly to perform. The entire country swings with her as she renders with aplomb local hits like Majengo Siendhi Tena and Harambi Harambi.

Over the years Usha Uthup has sung for Prime Ministers, Presidents, kings and queens. Political glitterati like Indira Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and more recently Nelson Mandela have all been her ardent admirers.

Musical Family

Born in a traditional family and brought up in Mumbai, Usha’s father who was a police superintendent, was a strict disciplinarian but a lover of music. "We grew up listening to greats like Mozart, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Begum Akhtar, Beethoven, and K.C. De. But we also loved popular Hindi music on Radio Ceylon."

Usha’s two elder sisters were also singers and formed a group called the Sami Sisters. But ironically her own beginnings weren’t so auspicious. "In school I was thrown out of the music class because a heavy voice like mine didn’t fit in." Consumed by the desire to sing and create music Usha joined her sisters’ group and added a twist of lime to their musical cocktail.

Soon enough Usha went solo and in 1969 landed a contract with the then famous restaurant Talk of the Town in Bombay. Such was the boom in her voice that it caught on like a house on fire and Usha had made her debut on the Indian pop scene.

It was not long before she became the highest paid club singer in India. Crooning popular numbers like Scotch and Soda and Green Back Dollar she charged an entire generation with her adrenalin-pumping singing.

But her big break came with Dum Maro Dum from Dev Anand’s 1970 superhit Hare Rama Hare Krishna, then when she regaled music lovers with Jeete Hain Shaan Se from Shaan and finally the utterly barmy masterpiece One Two Cha Cha Cha, from the film Shalimar made her the singing darling of the nation.

Though in the nineties she seemed to be slowing down she has been back on center-stage in the new millennium. At a time when most of her contemporaries are gently walking into their golden sunset, Usha is a very busy singer and has at least three or four concerts lined up every month. Besides, she says, "I am working on a multi-lingual album and also on a new series of children’s songs."

Usha is a grandmother now, and many decades have passed since she made Talk of the Town the talk of the nation. The new generation may not have heard that name, but Usha Uthup’s charm still endears along with the silk saris, gajras, gold chokers and glass bangles.





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