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Pakistani playback singer Ahmed Rushdi performing live on stage in 1954
Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar in recent years[1]

A playback singer is a singer whose singing is pre-recorded for use in movies. 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 movies produced in the Indian subcontinent are particularly known for using this technique. A majority of Indian movies as well as Pakistani movies 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,[2][3][4] and they also receive wide public admiration. Most of the playback singers are initially trained in classical music, but they later often expand their range.[5]

Mohammed Rafi and Ahmed Rushdi are regarded as two of the most influential playback singers in South Asia.[6][7][8][9] 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.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][excessive citations] In 2011, Guinness officially acknowledged Bhosle as the most recorded artist in music history.[17]

Popular Indian singers include Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao, Asha Bhosle, Bhupen Hazarika, K. J. Yesudas, Dr. Rajkumar, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor, Talat Mahmood, Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Mubarak Begum, Sandhya Mukherjee, Geeta Dutt, Anuradha Paudwal, Amit Kumar, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam,[10] K. S. Chithra, S. Janaki, Vani Jayaram, P. Leela, Swarnalatha,[18] Shreya Ghoshal, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sadhana Sargam, Mano, Sujatha Mohan, Sunidhi Chauhan, Aditi Singh Sharma, Anuradha Sriram, Harini, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Arijit Singh, Jubin Nautiyal, Palak Muchhal, Armaan Malik, Jonita Gandhi, Nakash Aziz, Neeti Mohan, Sonu Nigam, Neha Kakkar, Mohit Chauhan, Shaan, KK, Himesh Reshammiya, Nitin Mukesh, Mika Singh, Rajesh Krishnan, Rekha Bhardwaj, Shweta Subram, Shweta Mohan, Zubeen Garg, Vijay Prakash, Rajesh Krishnan, Shankar Mahadevan.[19][20]

Famous Pakistani playback singers include Ahmed Rushdi, Mehdi Hassan, Mehnaz, Shafqat Amanat Ali, Nazia Hassan, Alamgir,[21] Masood Rana, Adnan Sami Khan, Noor Jehan, Mala, Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar, Ghulam Ali, Runa Laila, Hadiqa Kiani, Alycia Dias, Saleem Raza, Akhlaq Ahmed, Mujeeb Aalam, Asad Amanat Ali Khan, Bashir Ahmad, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Abrar-ul-Haq, Abida Parveen, Ali Azmat, Brian O'Connell, Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, Fariha Pervez, Ghulam Haider, Humera Arshad, Jawad Ahmad, Sajjad Ali, Salma Agha, Muhammad Juman, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Waqar Ali, Zohaib Hassan, Naheed Akhtar and A. Nayyar.[22]


Playback singing is not as common in contemporary Hollywood as musicals are less frequent.[citation needed] It was, however, more widely used in the past. Notable Hollywood performances include 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,[23] 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,[24] a movie in which playback singing is a major plot point.

See also


  1. ^ "Lata Mangeshkar". Times of India.
  2. ^ Wolk, Douglas (April 1999). "Kill Your Radio: Music On The 'Net". CMJ New Music (Electro Media): 61.
  3. ^ D. Booth, Gregory (2008). Behind the curtain: making music in Mumbai's film studios. OUP USA. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0-19-532764-0.
  4. ^ Srinivasan, Meera (27 February 2009). "Fans spend a sleepless night". The Hindu. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  5. ^ Rajamani, Radhika (17 February 2003). "Realising a dream". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  6. ^ Harris, Craig. "Mohammed Rafi". Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Articles about Mohammad Rafi". Times of India. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Ahmed Rushdi, Remembering a legend". Dawn News. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Remembering Ahmed Rushdi". The Express Tribune. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  10. ^ a b Gangadhar, v. (18 May 2001). "Only the best preferred". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  11. ^ Gulzar; Nihalani, Govind; Chatterji, Saibal (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. pp. 72–73. ISBN 81-7991-066-0.
  12. ^ Arnold, Alison (2000). The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Taylor & Francis. pp. 420–421. ISBN 0-8240-4946-2.
  13. ^ Yasmeen, Afshan (21 September 2004). "Music show to celebrate birthday of melody queen". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  14. ^ Pride, Dominic (August 1996). "The Latest Music News From Around The Planet". Billboard: 51.
  15. ^ Puri, Amit (24 February 2003). "Dedicated to Queen of Melody". The Tribune, Chandigarh. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Melody Queen Lata rings in 75th birthday quietly". The Tribune. Chandigarh. 29 September 2004. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  17. ^ Banerjee, Soumyadipta (22 October 2011). "It's a world record for Asha Bhosle". DNA India. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  18. ^ BBC World Service 70th Anniversary Global Music Poll: The World's Top Ten 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  19. ^ Kumar, Divya (5 February 2009). "Shreya rocks". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  20. ^ Locapally, Vijay (5 January 2008). "Singing star". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  21. ^ "Nisar Bazmi passes away". Dawn. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  22. ^ Alavi, Omair (1 October 2006). "The rise and fall of playback singing". Dawn. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  23. ^ "The Sound of Music full credits". IMDb. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  24. ^ Earl J. Hess and Pratibha A. Dabholkar, Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2009), p145.