Hariharan is an Indian playback singer who has sung for Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bhojpuri and Telugu films, an established ghazal singer, and one of the pioneers of Indian fusion music. His melody is strongly appreciated by the film fraternity. In 2004, he was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India and is a two time National Award winner.
Hariharan, associating with Leslie Lewis, formed Colonial Cousins, a two-member band. They have cut many private music albums and also scored music for few feature films in Tamil cinema and Bollywood cinema.
Born in Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram) he grew up in Mumbai in a Tamil Iyer family, and has bachelor degrees in science and law. He did his collegiate studies from S.I.E.S.College. The son of renowned Carnatic vocalists, Shrimati Alamelu and the late H.A.S. Mani (full name:Anantha Subramani Iyer), he inherited his parents' musical talents. Alamelu was Hariharan's first guru (mentor). From her, he picked up Carnatic music skills. He was also exposed to Hindustani music from a young age. In his teens, inspired by the songs of Mehdi Hassan and Jagjit Singh, Hariharan developed a passion for ghazals and started training in Hindustani music from Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan. He used to put in thirteen hours of singing practice everyday. The committed Hariharan also put heart and soul into learning Urdu when he decided to become a ghazal singer.
At the start of his career, Hariharan did the concert circuit and also performed on TV. He sang for a number of TV serials (e.g., Junoon). In 1977, he bagged the top prize in the "All India Sur Singaar Competition" and was promptly signed on by the late music director Jaidev to sing for his new Hindi film Gaman (1978). His debut song "Ajeeb Saane He Mujh Par Qarar" in that movie became such a hit that it won him an Uttar Pradesh State Film Award, as well as a National Award nomination.
Hariharan entered the world of Tamil films in 1992 introduced by debutant music director A.R. Rahman with the patriotic song Thamizha Thamizha in Maniratnam's film Roja. He was judged best male playback singer in the 1995 Tamil Nadu State Government Film Awards for his soulful rendition of the song Uyire Uyire also by music director A.R Rahman in Maniratnam's Bombay (Hariharan sang the song with K.S. Chithra). Hariharan has been one of the most trusted singers of Rahman and has sung many songs for him in long list of movies that includes Muthu, Minsara Kanavu, Jeans, Indian, Mudhalvan, Taal, Rangeela, Indira, Iruvar, Anbe Aaruyire, Kangalal Kaithu Sei, Sivaji, Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal, Guru, Enthiran etc. In 1998, Hariharan won the national award for the best playback singer for the soulful rendition of the song Mere Dushman Mere Bhai from the Hindi movie Border, composed by Anu Malik. Hariharan got another National Award for the Marathi song Jiv Rangla from Jogwa, set to tune by Ajay Atul in the year 2009.
He has sung more than 500 Tamil songs and nearly a hundred Hindi songs. He has also sung hundreds of songs in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Bengali languages.
Hariharan has acted in a Tamil film with Khushboo, Power of Women, and played cameo roles in the Tamil film Boys and the Malayalam film Millennium Stars.
Hariharan is one of the foremost Indian ghazal singers and composers with more than thirty albums to his credit. In his early career, he cut several successful ghazal albums, writing most of the scores himself. One of Hariharan's first ghazal albums was Aabshar-e-Ghazal with Asha Bhonsle, which went gold in sales. Another outstanding ghazal album was Gulfam, which not only hit double platinum in sales but also fetched Hariharan the Diva Award for the Best Album of the Year in 1994.
The year 1996 was a career milestone; he formed the band Colonial Cousins with Mumbai-based composer and singer Leslie Lewis. It won a string of awards including the MTV Indian Viewers' Choice award and Billboard Award for the Best Asian Music Group. By this single album, Hariharan established himself as one of the pioneers of Indian fusion music. The next albums by this band were The Way We Do It (1998) and Aatma (2001) but were fairly noticed. 2009 Tamil film Modhi Vilayadu had score and soundtrack composed by Colonial Cousins. They also scored the 2010 Tamil film Chikku Bukku.
In 2004, he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri and Yesudas Award for his outstanding performance in music.
He is currently appearing in a music show in Jaya TV named Hari Yudan Naan. Hariharan collaborated with Sarangan Sriranganathan for "Sruthi" at the Sydney Hill Centre and the Melbourne Robert Blackwood Hall Australia in 2011.