The talented singer Dilraj Kaur was born on 21 May 1960 in Shamli in the western part of Uttar Pradesh. Her father was a civil engineer. Due to the transferable nature of his job, the family remained based in Lucknow to facilitate the education of his children. Kaur was the second of four siblings, two brothers and one sister.
Even as a child, Dilraj Kaur was interested in music. Though she performed regularly in school functions, she thought of it as only a hobby and aspired to be a doctor, like her maternal aunt. Her school’s principal, Swaroop Kumari Bakshi, encouraged her to consider music more seriously as a career option. As a result, Dilraj Kaur trained to play the table at a mere seven years old. Her mother was supportive of her interest in music, and she enrolled her in the Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyalaya. Dilraj’s vocal audition impressed the teachers so much that she was asked to join directly as a second-year student. Meanwhile, she also continued to receive sugam sangeet classes under the tutelage of Ustad Rahat Ali. A born performer, she enchanted a crowd numbering nearly 13000 at the age of nine.
When she was twelve years old, Dilraj Kaur went to perform in the Sur Singaar Samiti in Bombay in 1972. She sang two ghazals- Khatir Ghaznavi’s Go zara si baat par barson ke yaarane gaye and Faiz’s Gulon mein rang bhare. Her performance was so enthralling that HMV records signed a contract with her on the spot. Under the guidance of Raghunath Seth, she released a bhajan EP. The record earned her much recognition, and she was featured in major newspapers and magazines. She also appeared on the Kal Ke Kalakaar programme on All India Radio, which aired on 16 November 1972, after which she made her way back home.
The next time she participated in Sur Singaar in 1974 turned out to be a life-changing event for Dilraj Kaur. She received the opportunity to sing the song Eeriye pambiriye tu ditta for the film Guru Manio Granth (1977). She sang the song as a duet with Mohammed Rafi, which was a dream come true for her. This set off her film career. She started her journey in Hindi film industry with the film Jaan Haazir Hai (1975) where she sang three songs, amongst which one was a solo called Sawan ayya badal aaye mere piya naahi aaye mere piya naahi aaye. She also got the opportunity to sing with Amit Kumar and Manhar, and both her solo and the trio song became massive hits. She also sang a bhajan in the film Daku aur Bhagwan (1975) with Mahendra Kapoor. Amidst all this, she worked hard to continue her education. She graduated from the Women’s Academy where she completed her undergraduate degree. She also finished her post-graduation in English honours from Lucknow University.
According to Dilraj Kaur, one of the highlights of her career was her collaboration with music director O P Nayyar. Nayyar heard her sing during a recording of some other song and promised a collaboration which came to bear in the film Heera Moti (1979). She recorded a solo song, along with a trio song with Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey. The film’s music was a success with the masses.
Other than singing in films, she has also sung in multiple languages such as Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali in a career spanning over 30 years. In the year 1981, she got married to a Gujarati businessman. She continues to do riyaz and record whenever she gets the chance.