Governor, CM, Abdullahs, Azad, Drabu, Naeem, others grieved
One of the most popular female singers of Kashmir, Raj Begum, breathed her last after a prolonged illness on Wednesday. She was 89.
Born on 27 March 1927, Begum started her career at an earlier age and later started singing in weddings despite the family opposition. She defied all odds to reach the zenith of popularity in Kashmir at a time when singing for women was seen as a taboo. At the height of her career, she even gave a tough competition to her male compatriots.
Her talent won her titles including the ‘Nightingale of Kashmir’ and ‘Asha Bhosle of Kashmir’.
Begum started her career as small-time singer at weddings, but her fame exploded when her songs were broadcast from Radio Kashmir. She captivated the hearts of millions of listeners with her melodious voice. Right from 1947 when she stepped into Radio Kashmir till her retirement in 1986, she was a rage all around Kashmir.
The ‘Melody Queen of Kashmir’, as she was known, was honoured with Padma Shri in 2002 and the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 2013. She was also bestowed with state award by Jammu and Kashmir government in 2009.
Begum is survived by two sons, a daughter and grandchildren.
Maharaj Kaul in ‘Agony Of Dal Lake: Kashmir’s Soul Under Pressure’, writes: “When Raj Begum started singing professionally in mid-50s, only Radio Stations had recording equipment. Her best years of singing were spent working for Radio Kashmir, with the result her entire music is only available through it. Having the approach of a typical Government of India department, Radio Kashmir did not think it was their business to release a singer’s music, even if the singer was a high caliber and as legendary as Raj Begum.”
Kaul later started a project to make Begum’s music available to all.
Her famous songs include ‘kan thav agar chi has, pyaar kotha saal, rang tchhak naa myaenee jawaenee, maer manzi yaaro maenz chyaen, che kyamoo… tche kyoho gayi myaen’ and the famed ‘walai aaz vasiye’ (with legendary Ghulam Hassan Sofi).
Filmmaker Bashir Budgami said the “biggest quality” of Raj Begum was that she was extremely humble. “I remember once I asked her to sing in chorus behind Shamim Azad in Habba Khatoon movie. Despite being topmost singer of that time. she said okay. She had no ego unlike today’s singers,” said Budgami, who used the voice of Begum in his two films Rasool Mir and Habba Khatoon. “Wherever she sang, the audience went crazy and it was always full house.”
Begum had her fans from all age groups. She inspired an entire generation of musicians and vocalists.
Noted singer Arti Tiku Kaul once said about Begum: “She is an artist who touched millions of hearts with her deep, resonating voice. With minimum/no training in music, she had an amazing talent to sing the words with utmost depth and emotion. I also remember that she did not read and write any of the songs but relied upon a fellow artist to say the words in her ear, just before she got the signal to sing her part. I used to watch her in awe, when she sang many feet away from the mike, while other artists had to stay as close as possible and still managed to get her voice heard better than the others."
Veteran Bollywood star Dilip Kumar who once heard her at a hotel in Srinagar was quoted as saying: "As long as Kashmir has Raj Begum, its mesmerizing voices shall never die."
DEMISE WIDELY CONDOLED
Governor NN Vohra expressed grief over Raj Begum’s demise and recalled her contributions to the Kashmiri music. He paid rich tributes to the melody queen whom he had met on several occasions in the past years.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti while expressing grief over the loss of Kashmir’s treasured female voice, termed Raj Begum’s demise as an “end of a great era” in Kashmir’s musical history and a huge loss for the State.
Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma mourned the passing away of Raj Begum, saying “she vocalised Kashmir culture."
National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah and Working President Omar Abdullah while expressing grief over the demise of legendary Kashmiri singer said: “Raj Begum’s captivating voice will continue to fill our hearts with pride and joy for centuries to come. In her demise we have lost a brilliant artist, an extraordinary singer and a symbol of pride in our identity and culture.”
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad while expressing his grief said: “Raj Begum was an institution and ruled the hearts of millions of Kashmiri listeners for more than six decades. I was a great fan of Raj ji. Her death has caused a vacuum in the arena of Kashmiri Music."
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh in his condolence message said the veteran singer will be remembered for times to come and her death has created a void which will be hard to fill. He hailed the late singer’s contribution in uplifting and preserving the Kashmir music.
Minister of Finance, Culture and Labour and Employment, Dr Haseeb A Drabu while condoling the demise of veteran singer said that he is deeply saddened by the death of Raj Begum who vocalized Kashmiri culture and played a huge role in popularizing Kashmiri classic poetry by making it accessible to the people through her popular renditions.
Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar said that Raj Begum was the symbol of Kashmiri culture and her death has left vacuum in the art and cultural arena of the state. He said that Begum will live forever in the hearts of people.
Adbee Markaz Kamraz (AMK) in a condolence message said with Begum’s death, a golden chapter in the Kashmiri music has come to an end. "Despite so many odds she enriched the music with her contribution that served as a great source of encouragement for youngsters,” it said in a statement.
SaMaPa (Sopori Academy of Music And Performing Arts) and Sopori family said it is not only a loss to Jammu and Kashmir but also to the entire music world. Pt Sopori said that Raj Begum, with her unique style of singing, sung numerous songs in different styles like Ghazal, Geet, Chakri and Rouf, which will be remembered by the listeners forever.