|Shamshad Begum, right, being presented with the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honor, by then president Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on March 31, 2009.|
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Shamshad Begum : often hailed as India's original nightingale.
‘Mere piya gaye rangoon’, ‘Leke pehla pehla pyar’, ‘Kabhi aar khabhi paar’ — these retro Hindi numbers are part of every popular DJ’s play list these days. While the remixed tunes are a rage at the clubs, few youngsters would be able to name the person behind the groovy voice they love so much: Musical legend Shamshad Begum. It was Nayyar who brought her out of retirement in 1968 to sing a duet with Asha Bhosle in Kismat. The collaboration resulted in ‘Kajra Mohabbatwala’, which is as popular today as it was 40 years ago, and give a run for its money to ‘Kajrarey, kajrarey’!
“ Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat “ , her deduet with Indian’s most famous playback singer Lata Mamgeshkar in the 1960 blockbuster “ Mughal-E-Azam “, is still often played on All India Radio . Shamshad Begum (born April 14, 1919) started singing folk songs during religious functions and family weddings at age 10 and made her debut on Peshawar Radio in Lahore on December 16, 1947. She then sang for All India (AIR) as part of her music group, The Crown Imperial Theatrical Company Of Performing Arts , set in Delhi . All India Radio station at Peshawar was setup in 1935. Shamshad Begum got an offer to sing for the station. Shamshad begum worked for three years in AIR, Peshawar. Before this assignment she was offered to sing for AIR, Delhi , but was not able to take up the assignment , she fell ill that time. Shamshad changed her residence to Peshawar during her tenure in AIR, Peshawar. Her eldest brother Fazaldeen stayed with her in Peshawar. Hundreds of songs – gazals, devotionals, patriotic, she sang all genres of songs. Direct broadcast, these songs were not recorded. AIR, Lahore was set up in December, 1937 Shamshad Begum returned back to Lahore and worked for AIR, and became popular as a radio singer and announcer. Her voice was first heard on All India Radio Lahore in December 1937. Her songs were frequently broadcast on AIR Lahore , bringing her voice to the notice of music directors.
Her voice captivated an entire generation of Bollywood music lovers, and she worked for decades with the top music directors of Bollywood, including Naushad Ali, Anil Biswas and C. Ramchandra, who seemed to involve her in nearly every project they did. A “playback singer,” she was the woman behind the high, melodic voice to which scores of actresses lip-synced and danced from the 1930s till the 1970s. While she may be best known for singing the first “Western-sounding” song in Hindi cinema, “Meri jaan meri jaan … Sunday ke Sunday,” fans had their own favorites, songs that could resonate in lonely hearts and joyous souls alike.
The music director Ghulam Haider, who also discovered playback singers like Noorjehan, Mohammad Rafi, Surinder Kaur and Lata Mangeshkar, was credited with discovering Shamshad Begum as well. The song “Sawan ke Nazaarein Hain” was from one of the biggest hits of 1941, “Kazanchi.” As a versatile singer, Begum enthralled millions with her songs in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi. She sang for almost all the top composers of her time including Ghulam Haider, Naushad and O P Nayyar.
But by the late 1950s Mangeshkar and her sister Asha Bhonsle were ascending and there was little demand for Begum, although some of her fave composers had her sing a number occasionally. Her last song was for the film “Main papi tum bakhshanhaar” in 1976.Such was the charm of the bright, self-taught vocals (of Shamshad) that producers insisted on using them to ensure the success of their movies. All the music directors of the 1940-60 period have recorded her in solos, duets and choruses in serious, comic, romantic, children’s, patriotic and devotional songs.
After her unceremonious retirement from the music industry in the 1960s, she disappeared from the public eye. Although the thriving audio cassette culture of 1970-80s and All India Radio kept her voice alive, for years nobody knew if she was physically alive. In 1998, the Indian newspapers announced her death only to be clarified later that the Shamshad Begum who had died in 1998 was Saira Banu's grandmother. For the post-1947 generation, she is a distinct voice, identifiable with the portrait of a middle-aged, plump lady on the dust covers of her long-play records and cassettes, a singer who entered the fray in the time of their parents' childhood and excelled in the rendition of mischievous, flirty and juicy songs in her jarring voice. Begum received the Padma Bhushan , one of India’s highest civilian awards ,in 2009.