June 3, 2022
On May 31, Indian singer Krishnakumar Kunnath, better known to his millions of fans, including me, as KK, died in Kolkata following a performance at a local college. The Nazrul Mancha auditorium, where the two-hour concert was held, was reportedly at nearly double its capacity after fans broke down the gate to hear KK sing his biggest Bollywood hits and original songs, like “Pal” and “Yaaron,” live. Video footage from concert attendees showed him sweating during his set, complaining of the heat, and wiping his face with a towel. He later collapsed and was taken to Kolkata’s CMRI hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that the singer had died from a cardiac arrest. He was 53.
If you grew up in India in the late 1990s and early 2000s, KK’s voice was ubiquitous. His songs followed my entire generation from the school bus to college to work. His voice, tinged with a soft melancholy, steered us through both the loss of the life our parents led and the joy of figuring our own out for ourselves.
When I saw the news break on TV, my stomach lurched as if I had just learned of a friend’s passing. Usually, when I hear about celebrity deaths, I rush to Twitter to read biographical details to make them seem ‘real’ in my head. Instead, I played my favorite KK songs, blocking out the headlines with his gentle, playful voice. His songs sound like a conversation with an old confidant — or as he called it, a raazdar. I didn’t need to make KK real in my head. He was an integral part of who I am.