Manak had celebrated his 62nd birthday on November 15. His illustrious career in music began when the 17-year-old was chosen to sing alongside famed vocalist Seema in 1968. This proved to be his lucky break and he went on to forge a successful career in the music industry. He is credited for popularising the traditional Punjabi songs called kaliyan. His hits songs include “Tere Tilley Ton”, “Chheti Kar Sarwan Bachcha” and “Garh Mughlane Dian Naaran”.
The legend had recently been featured on a tribute album of international Bhangra superstar Jazzy B.’s album Maharajas, in which the Canadian singing star paid homage to his mentor and friend.
“Kuldeep Manak was a strong pillar of Punjabi music industry, and to me, a father figure. Whatever I am today is all because of him. His demise has left a void in our lives,” said Jazzy B, who visited the singer’s residence in Housing Board Colony near Rajguru Nagar soon after the news of Manak’s death spread. Among others present there along with Manak’s fans were Punjabi singers Surinder Shinda, Diljeet Dosanjh and Ranjeet Mani.
“He will continue to be an inspiration for all Punjabi singers,” said popular Punjabi singer and actor Diljeet Dosanjh.
Born as Latif Mohammad in a Mirasi family, he “inherited” his interest in music from his father Nikka Khan, who was a singer. Manak traced his ancestry to ‘hazoori raagis’ that performed at the durbar of the king of Nabha.
Often called the “King of Kaliyan” (Kali is a genre of Punjabi folk music), Manak, through his songs, captured the popular imagination for more than four decades.
At the age of 19, he had recorded his first song that was a duet with Seema, a popular artiste at that time. Later, he shifted from Bathinda to Ludhiana to pursue his career in music. Receptivity to new ideas was his forte and he did not shy away from tuning his music to social issues.
Offering his condolences on Manak’s death, Gurbhajan Gill, president, Punjabi Sahit Akademi, said his death was a big loss to the Punjabi music industry.
“Manak’s transformation from Manka (his nickname) to Kuldeep Manak was courtesy his musical talent. We regret that he would not be there to receive the best Punjabi singer award that was to be conferred on him by the Languages Department,” he added.
“His death is a great loss to the Punjabi music industry,” added Gill.
Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and PCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh also expressed grief at the singer’s death. JS Jassowal, founder president, Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, and renowned singer Jazy B said the death was a big loss to the Punjabi culture.
Manak is survived by his wife and two children – son Yuhdhvir and daughter Shakti. Yudhvir had been following his father’s footsteps but his progress was stunted after he suffered a brain hemorrhage.