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Shamshad Begum, The Legendary Singer
(Source: India Post S Asia Bureau, August 98)

Shamshad Begum, the nasal voiced legendary classical and playback singer of yesteryears died in Mumbai on August 10, 1998. She was nearly a 100 years old. Shamshad Begum was the mother of the silver screen heart-throb of the black-and-white era Naseem Bano and grandmother of heroine Saira Bano (wife of Dilip Kumar).

Most of her songs were memorable hits. Even the one rendered in 1960s for Kismat, after her retirement: "Kajra mohabbatwala ankhiyon mein aisa dala" composed by O.P. Nayyar, proved a superhit. Her duet with Kishore Kumar, "Meri neendon main tum, meri khwabon mein tum" from Naya Andaz (composed by Naushad), similarly, remains almost a touchstone of melodious romance.

Shamshad—reputed to be a stunningly beautiful woman in her youth - performed live, both on stage and the All India Radio (AIR) through her musical group The Crown Imperial Theatrical Company of Performing Arts, set up in Delhi. Her crystal clear voice caught the attention of sarang maestro Ustad Hussain Baksh-wale Saheb, who took her as his disciple.

Since Mumbai had already been acknowledged as the country’s film capital, Shamshad went there in the late 1930s to try her fortune.

She was immediately grabbed by master music directors like Naushad Ali, Ram Ganguly, S D Burman, O P Nayyar and Khemchand Prakash. Throughout her film singing career, she remained a particular favorite with Naushad and Nayyar who used her voice not only to its fullest range but to the maximum extent possible. Shamshad became a national rage between the 1940s and mid-1960s rendering songs in her nasal voice - which helped her carve her independent - and till date unchallenged - niche in the world of music.

She became a rage with songs like O, Lagi Lagi (Aaan) Dhadkar Mera Dil (Babul), Teri Mehfil Main Kismat Azma kar Hum Bhi Dekhange (Mughal-E-Azam), Chhau Main Rakha Virana (Deedar), Holi Aayi Re Kanhai (Mother India) - all hits for which music was directed by Naushad.

Similarly, she gave superhits for Nayyar like Kabhi Aar, Kabhi Paar (Aar Paar), Poochh Mera Kya Naam Re, Nadi Kinare Gaon Re (CID). Among other notable numbers she rendered were Saiyan Dilmain Aana Re, Aake Chhup Na Jana Re (Bahaar - S D Burman), Ai Dil Na Mujhe Yaad Dila (Saawan Aaya - Khemchand Prakash) and Kaahe Koyal Shor Machaye (Aaag - Ram Ganguly).

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