Alka Yagnik is among the best-known playback singers of Hindi cinema. She is a record seven-time winner of the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer from a record of 35 nominations, a two-time recipient of the National Film Award as well as several other music awards listed below.
Alka Yagnik was born in Kolkata to a Gujarati family. Her mother Shubha Yagnik was a singer of Indian classical music. At the age of 6, she started singing for Akashvani, Calcutta. At the age 10, her mother brought her to Bombay as a child singer. She was advised to wait till her voice matured but her mother remained determined and on a subsequent visit, Alka got a letter of introduction to Raj Kapoor from his Kolkata distributor. Kapoor heard the girl and sent her with a letter to noted music director Laxmikant. Impressed, Laxmikant gave her two alternatives, an immediate start as a dubbing artist or a later break as a singer. They settled for the latter.
Alka Yagnik is classically trained and has been one of the leading playback singers in Bollywood since the late 1980s. She got her big break with the song Ek Do Teen from the film Tezaab (1988). The song turned her into a star overnight and went on to become a pop hit, also winning her a Filmfare Best Female Playback Singer Award. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak was also a career maker for her, as she along with Udit Narayan became household names.
She has sung in many languages other than Hindi, including Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, Manipuri, Nepali, Rajasthani, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam. She has worked with Indian composers such as Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan, Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin Lalit, Anu Malik, A. R. Rahman, Anand-Milind, Himesh Reshammiya, Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy, Ismail Darbar, Aadesh Shrivastava, Viju Shah, M.M. Keeravani, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and many others.
She has also sung in many notable albums such as 'Tum Yaad Aaye', as well as Tum Aaye and Shairana in which she worked in close collaboration with award-winning lyricist Javed Akhtar and noted singer Hariharan. She has also rendered the Hanuman Chalisa and various devotional songs.
Alka shares the title with Asha Bhosle for the greatest number of Filmfare Awards won (7) by a single female playback singer. Alka has also been the judge of various reality shows like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge and Star Voice of India.
Alka Yagnik's voice is the sound of many young-generation heroines of the present day. She has done playback-singing for many famous actresses such as Rakhee Gulzar, Hema Malini, Farida Jalal, Rekha, Kajol, and Preity Zinta.