Playback singer

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Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar recorded thousands of songs Lata Mangeshkar at an event.jpg
Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar recorded thousands of songs
Pakistani playback singer Ahmed Rushdi performing live on stage in 1954 Ahmed Rushdi playback singer 1954.jpg
Pakistani playback singer Ahmed Rushdi performing live on stage in 1954

A playback singer, also known as a ghost singer, is a singer whose singing is pre-recorded for use in films. Playback singers record songs for soundtracks, and actors or actresses lip-sync the songs for cameras; the actual singer does not appear on the screen.


South Asia

South Asian films produced in the Indian subcontinent are particularly known for using this technique. A majority of Indian films as well as Pakistani films typically include six or seven songs. After Alam Ara (1931), the first Indian talkie film, for many years singers made dual recordings for a film, one during the shoot, and later in the recording studio, until 1952 or 1953. Popular playback singers in India enjoy the same status as popular actors and music directors [1] [2] [3] and receive wide public admiration. Most of the playback singers are initially trained in classical music, but they later often expand their range. [4] Mohammed Rafi and Ahmed Rushdi [5] are regarded as two of the most influential playback singers in South Asia. [6] The sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, who have mainly worked in Hindi films, are often referred to as two of the best-known and most prolific playback singers in India. [7] [8] In 2011, Guinness officially acknowledged Bhosle as the most recorded artist in music history. [9]


Playback singing is a well-known component of Hollywood musicals though less frequent in other genres. Notable Hollywood performances include Anita Ellis as the voice of Rita Hayworth's title character in Gilda (1946). Both Anita Ellis's and Rita Hayworth's performances were so impressive that audiences did not know that Rita's voice had been dubbed. Called "the sexiest voice of 1946", Ellis's identity was not publicized. Rita Hayworth was instead credited on the soundtrack despite being sung by Ellis. This led audiences to believe for years that her voice belonged to Hayworth. There have been other uses of playback singing throughout Hollywood, including Marni Nixon in West Side Story for Natalie Wood's portrayal of Maria, in The King and I for Deborah Kerr's Anna Leonowens, and for Audrey Hepburn's Eliza in My Fair Lady ; Bill Lee singing for John Kerr's Lieutenant Cable in South Pacific and for Christopher Plummer's Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music , [10] Lindsay Ridgeway for Ashley Peldon's character as Darla Dimple in the animated film Cats Don't Dance , Claudia Brücken providing the singing voice for Erika Heynatz's character as Elsa Lichtmann in L.A. Noire , and Betty Noyes singing for Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain , [11] a film in which playback singing is a major plot point.


Known playback singers include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lata Mangeshkar</span> Indian singer (1929–2022)

Lata Mangeshkar was an Indian playback singer and occasional music composer. She is widely considered to have been one of the greatest and most influential singers in India. Her contribution to the Indian music industry in a career spanning eight decades gained her honorific titles such as the "Queen of Melody", "Nightingale of India", and "Voice of the Millennium".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asha Bhosle</span> Indian playback singer (born 1933)

Asha Bhosle is an Indian playback singer, entrepreneur and occasional actress and television personality who predominantly works in Indian Cinema. Known for her versatility, she has been described in the media as one of the most influential and successful singers in Hindi Cinema. In her career spanning over eight decades she has recorded songs for films and albums in various Indian languages and received several accolades including two National Film Awards, four BFJA Awards, eighteen Maharashtra State Film Awards, nine Filmfare Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award and a record seven Filmfare Awards for Best Female Playback Singer, in addition to two Grammy nominations. In 2000, she was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in the field of cinema. In 2008, she was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian honour of the country. Additionally she holds the Guinness World Record for the most studio recordings - singles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kishore Kumar</span> Indian singer and actor (1929–1987)

Kishore Kumar was an Indian playback singer and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most dynamic singers in the history of Indian music, as well as one of the best singers of the Indian subcontinent of all time. He was one of the most popular singers in the Indian film industry, notable for his yodeling and ability to sing songs in different voices. Kumar used to sing in different genres but some of his rare compositions, considered classics, were lost in time. According to his brother Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar was so successful as a singer because his "voice hits the mike, straight, at its most sensitive point".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mohammed Rafi</span> Indian singer

Mohammed Rafi was an Indian playback singer and musician. He is considered to have been one of the greatest and most influential singers of the Indian subcontinent. Rafi was notable for his versatility and range of voice; his songs varied from fast peppy numbers to patriotic songs, sad numbers to highly romantic songs, qawwalis to ghazals and bhajans to classical songs. He was known for his ability to mould his voice to the persona and style of the actor lip-syncing the song on screen in the movie. He received six Filmfare Awards and one National Film Award. In 1967, he was honored with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India. In 2001, Rafi was honoured with the "Best Singer of the Millennium" title by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine. In 2013, Rafi was voted for the Greatest Voice in Hindi Cinema in the CNN-IBN's poll.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Noor Jehan</span> Pakistani singer and actress

Noor Jehan, also known by her honorific title Malika-e-Tarannum, was a Punjabi playback singer and actress who worked first in India and then in the cinema of Pakistan. Her career spanned more than six decades. Considered to be one of the greatest and most influential singers in Indian subcontinent, she was given the honorific title of Malika-e-Tarannum in Pakistan. She had a command of Hindustani classical music as well as other music genres.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marni Nixon</span> American singer and actress

Margaret Nixon McEathron, known professionally as Marni Nixon, was an American soprano and ghost singer for featured actresses in musical films. She is now recognized as the singing voice of leading actresses on the soundtracks of several musicals, including Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, although her roles were concealed from audiences when the films were released. Several of the songs she dubbed appeared on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs list.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alka Yagnik</span> Indian playback singer

Alka Yagnik is an Indian playback singer who works predominantly in Hindi cinema. She has been described in the media as one of the most prominent and successful playback singers in Bollywood. In her career spanning over four decades she has recorded over 20000 songs for films and albums in various Indian languages and received several accolades including two National Film Awards, two Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards and a record seven Filmfare Awards for Best Female Playback Singer from a record of thirty-six nominations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kumar Sanu</span> Indian playback singer

Kedarnath Bhattacharya, better known as Kumar Sanu, is an Indian playback singer. He is known as the King of Melody in Bollywood. His voice and singing style are heavily influenced by singer Kishore Kumar. He is famous for singing thousands of Bollywood Hindi songs. Apart from Hindi, he has also sang in other languages including Marathi, Nepali, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Manipuri, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Punjabi, Odia, Chhattisgarhi, Urdu, Pali, English and his native language Bengali, both in West Bengal and Bangladesh. He holds the record for winning five consecutive Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer (1990–1994) along with Arijit Singh. For his contribution to Indian cinema and music, he was awarded the Padma Shri in 2009 by the Government of India. Many of his tracks feature in BBC's "Top 40 Bollywood Soundtracks of all time".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Runa Laila</span> Bangladeshi singer

Runa Laila is a Bangladeshi playback singer and composer. She started her career in Pakistan film industry in the late 1960s. Her style of singing is inspired by Pakistani playback singer Ahmed Rushdi and she also made a pair with him after replacing another singer Mala. Her playback singing in films – The Rain (1976), Jadur Banshi (1977), Accident (1989), Ontore Ontore (1994), Devdas (2013) and Priya Tumi Shukhi Hou (2014) - earned her seven Bangladesh National Film Awards for Best Female Playback Singer. She won the Best Music Composer award for the film Ekti Cinemar Golpo (2018).

Suman Kalyanpur is an Indian playback singer, one of the best-known and most respected playback singers in India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shamshad Begum</span> Indian playback singer

Shamshad Begum was an Indian singer who was one of the first playback singers in the Hindi film industry. Notable for her distinctive voice and range, she sang over 6,000 songs in Hindustani, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, and Punjabi languages, among which 1287 were Hindi film songs. She worked with renowned composers of the time, such as Naushad Ali and O. P. Nayyar, for whom she was one of their favorites. Her songs from the 1940s to the early 1970s remain popular and continue to be remixed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ahmed Rushdi</span> Pakistani playback singer

Ahmed Rushdi, SI, PP was a versatile Pakistani playback singer and was "an important contributor to the golden age of Pakistani film music." Regarded as one of the greatest singers in South Asia who could sing high tenor notes with ease, he is best known for his versatility and distinctive voice, with complex and dark emotional expressions. Considered as the first pop singer of South Asia, he sang South Asia's first pop song, "Ko Ko Korina", in the 1966 film Armaan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinmayi</span> Indian playback singer

Chinmayi Sripaada is an Indian playback singer, working mainly for the South Indian film industry. She is also a voice actor, television presenter and radio jockey. She is the founder and CEO of a translation services company Blue Elephant. She is often credited as Chinmayee and Indai Haza. She rose to fame for her critically acclaimed song "Oru Deivam Thantha Poovae" from the National Award winning movie Kannathil Muthamittal.

Bhupinder Singh (musician) Indian ghazal singer (1940–2022)

Bhupinder Singh was an Indian musician, chiefly a ghazal singer and also a Bollywood playback singer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sonu Nigam</span> Indian singer

Sonu Nigam is an Indian singer, music director and actor. He has been described in the media as one of the most popular and successful playback singers of Hindi Cinema and Kannada Cinema. He has been honoured by the Government of India with Padma Shri, the country's fourth-highest civilian honour for his contribution in the field of arts.

Sharda Rajan Iyengar, shortly Sharda, is an Indian playback singer in the 1960s and 1970s. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the cabaret "Baat Zara Hai Aapas Ki" in Jahan Pyar Miley (1970), though she is most remembered for her song "Titli Udi" in Suraj (1966). In 2007, she released the album Andaaz-e-Bayan Aur, featuring her own compositions based on Mirza Ghalib's ghazals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amit Kumar</span> Indian singer (born 1952)

Amit Kumar is an Indian playback singer, actor, music composer. Kumar launched his own music production company, named Kumar Brothers Music. He predominantly worked in Bollywood and regional film songs since the 1970s, including 150 Hindi and Bengali compositions by R. D. Burman. After Burman's death in 1994, citing a lack of quality music composition, Kumar withdrew from playback singing and concentrated on live orchestra shows. In addition to singing in Hindi, has also performed in Bengali, Bhojpuri, Odia, Assamese, Marathi and Konkani. He is the eldest son of legendary singer-actor Kishore Kumar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sudesh Bhosale</span> Indian actor and singer

Sudesh Bhosale is an Indian playback singer who primarily sings for Bollywood films. Bhosale is known for his ability to mimic actor Amitabh Bachchan, having sung for him in various films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anita Ellis</span> American actress and singer

Anita Ellis was a Canadian-born American singer and actress. She famously dubbed Rita Hayworth in Gilda, thus it is actually Ellis singing in the film, not Hayworth.

Zubaida Khanum was a Pakistani playback singer who recorded over 250 songs during Golden Age of Pakistani film music of 1950s and 1960s. She was considered Pakistani equivalent to Marni Nixon of Hollywood for giving voice to featured actresses in movie musicals.


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