Kuldeep Manak

Kuldeep Manak (born Latif Mohammed Khan; 15 November 1951 – 30 November 2011) was an Indian singer best known for singing a rare genre of Punjabi music, Kali, also known by its plural form kalian or kaliyan. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Manak was generally regarded as the best Punjabi singer in the world. His high pitched strong voice was unique, and instantly recognisable. A statue of Kuldeep Manak has also been erected in Ludhiana near his residence as a tribute to singer.

Early life

Manak was born as Latif Mohammed on 15 November 1951 to Nikka Khan, in the village of Jalal in Bathinda district of Indian Punjab. Sardar Partap Singh Kehron (Punjab Chief Minister) penned the name Kuldip Manak, after being amazed by the quality of his voice at a school prize giving. He completed his education from Jalal Government High School, where he was a keen hockey player. He had an inclination towards singing from an extremely young age. He was constantly persuaded by his ustad to graft in his raags and perform on stage. In his early career he became the baadshah of kaliyan. He had lyrics written by famous writers such as Debi Maksoospuri, Dev Threekewala and Jandu Litranwala. His most known tracks were gadeya millade sohne yaar, tere tille ton and dulleya ve tokra. Manak learnt the hazuri raagi methods of gaiki.


Manak's father, Nikka Khan, was a singer himself. Manak had two brothers: Siddqui, a devotional singer, and Rafiq, who was also briefly noted. Kuldeep Manak's ancestors were the Hazoori Raagis (designated cantors) of Kirtan for Maharaja Hira Singh of Nabha.

He was married to Sarabjeet Kaur with whom had two children, a boy named Yudhvir Manak and a girl named Shakti Manak. Yudhvir is following in his father's footsteps as a singer.


Manak learned music under Ustad Khushi Muhammad Qawwal in village Bhuttiwala at Muktsar

He left Bathinda and went to Ludhiana to pursue his career as a singer and started singing with the duo Harcharan Grewal and Seema. When they came to Delhi, a music company official spotted Manak and asked him to record the song jija akhian na maar ve main kall di kurhi (written by Babu Singh Maan Mararawala) with Seema. In 1968, at the age of 17, he was given the chance to record the song with Seema. His first record features this song along with laung karaa mittra, machhli paunge maape (written by Gurdev Singh Maan). This record was a runaway success. He did sing duets with Satinder Kaur biba younger sister of famous Punjabi lady singer Narinder biba, one of the duets was "Nale baba lasee pee gia nale de gia duanee khotee Later, he started an office at Bathinda along with writer Dilip Singh Sidhu of Kanakwal, but did not stay there for long and returned to Ludhiana. The first folk song sung by Manak was "maa Mirze di boldi", followed by, "ohne maut nu waajan maarian'. The writer and lyricist, Hardev Dilgir (also known as Dev Threekewala) spotted Manak at one of his live performances and penned many Lok Gathavan (English: old folk stories) for him. Dev Threekewala and Manak were very close to each other.

His first EP, Punjab Dian Lok Gathawan, was released by HMV in 1973 which included the 4 songs Jaimal Phatta, Heer Di Kali (Teri Khatar Heere) (Kali), Raja Rasalu and Dulla Bhatti (Dulleya ve tokra chukayeen aanke), all penned by Hardev Dilgir and music composed by Ram Saran Das. This was followed by another Lok Gathawan album in 1974 including Gorakh da Tilla and Allah Bismillah teri Jugni. In 1976 his first LP, Ik Tara, was released including the kali Tere Tille Ton, Chheti Kar Sarwan Bachcha and Garh Mughlane Dian Naaran and more. Other albums included:

  • Mitran di jacket de (1973)
  • Heer di doli (1977)
  • Sahiban Bani Bharaawan Di (1978)
  • Sahiban Da Tarla (1979)
  • Maa Hundhi Ae Maa (1980)
  • Akhan ch Najaiz Vikdi (1980)
  • Ichhran Dhaahan Maardi (1981)
  • Mehroo Posti (1982)
  • Sarwan Bhagat (1983)
  • Jugni Yaaran Di (1983)
  • Mundri vagah ke maari (1984)
  • Bhul Jaan Waaliye (1984)
  • Nachna pia (1985)
  • Ja ni tera kakh na rahe
  • Ranjha heer di bukal
  • Heer maardi leraan
  • Dilla De Sodya
  • Baba lassi peegeya
  • Kadna rumaalde geya ve
  • Sanu nachke vikha
  • 'Singh Soorme (1978) including Banda Singh Bahadur'
  • Ghare chal kadun rarkan
  • Dil milyan de mele
  • Karo na yaar maar mitro
  • Dil nahion lagda
  • Gidhe wich too nachdi
  • Yaar ve teri yaari
  • Loko vaddeya gandasseyan de naal
  • Laila Laila mukh ton Majnu
  • Hakaan maardi
  • The One
  • Bhull ke jhuthe yaaran nu
  • Ranjha jogi hoya
  • Do Gabhru Punjab De

    Manak's voice was versatile as within one album he sang in many different pitches and tones to reflect a song's meaning. For example, in the album 'Sahiban da Tarla' the songs Sahiban da Tarla, Yaari Yaaran di and Teri aan ma Teri Ranjha are all sung with different pitches.He has worked with famous music directors his musical carrier for instant Charanjit Ahuja,K Panna Lal,Kesar Singh Nrula,Rajender Parsana,Kuljit Singh,Atul Sharma,surinder Kohli, Barinder Bachan

    In films

    He also acted and sung in many Punjabi films such as 'Saidan Jogan' (1979) with the song, sathon naee majhin chaar hundian, 'Lambardaarni' (1980) with yaaran da truck balliye (song), and Balbiro Bhabi (1981) as actor, singer and composer. He also sang a song, "ajj dhee ik raje di", in the 1983 film Sassi Punnu.


    Manak also took part in the parliament elections of 1996 as an independent member from Bathinda but did not win.

    In popular culture

    On 25 December 2012, a tribute single was released by Aman Hayer under Moviebox Records with the title The Folk King (subtitle Ustaad Kuldeep Manak Ji Tribute) and featured a number of artists interpreting his songs, the track was first played and performed at the Britasia Music Awards 2012 by Angrej Ali who started the song with 'Vaar Banda Bahadur' which Ustaad Kuldeep Manak Ji used to start his shows with, Malkit Singh – 'G.T. Road Te', Sukshinder Shinda – 'Maa Hundi Ae Maa', A.S Kang – 'Chitiyan Sahiba Jatti Ne' Manmohan Waris – 'Sahiba Bani Bharaawa Di', Balwinder Safri – 'Nakhre Bin Sohni' and the final song sang in this tribute was 'Tere Tille Ton' by Jazzy B, a close student of Ustaad Kuldeep Manak Ji.

    Kuldip Manak's songs were featured in the movie Punjab 1984 starring Diljit Dosanjh and Pavan Malhotra as a tribute to him. The main character, Shivjeet, is an avid fan of Kuldip Manak and his songs are played at suspenseful moments of the film.