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Shamshad Begum tribute

THERE are some Bollywood musical legends who are instantly recognis­able, then there are other unsung heroes who made an incredible im­pact but perhaps didn’t get the cred­it they deserve. 

One of these was late great singer Shamshad Begum, whose birth and death anniversaries fall this month. Born April 14, 1919, she rose up from humble beginnings to lend her voice to some of the greatest Bolly­wood songs in history. She died on April 23, 2013, at the age of 94 in relative anonymity, but music fans have never forgotten her impressive body of work. Eastern Eye went back in time to unearth some of the Shamshad Begum’s musi­cal gems that still shine brightly today… 

Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon (Patanga): This 1949 hit showed less is definitely more with a song essentially about a couple in different countr-ies singing to one another. Shamshad teamed up with music director and C. Ramchandra on a track that struck a resonance with lovers who were far apart. Decades later, the song would be remixed, sampled and covered. 

Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar (Aar Paar): The leg­endary 1954 love song powered by the unmis­takable vocals of the great singer became a cult classic. In subsequent decades, the track would be covered, remixed and sampled by pop sing­ers wanting to capture some of its magic. 

Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar (CID): The legendary 1956 crime thriller in­cluded some un­forgettable music, but this was the standout number. Although it was a duet, the Shamshad vocals shone the brightest. The song was beautifully incorporated into the film with the hero using street singers to woo the woman he loves. 

Holi Aayi Re Kanhai (Mother India): The 1957 Oscar-nominated classic contained what was perhaps the first great holi song in Bolly­wo-od, largely because it was one of the first colour films. The solo Shamshad song lit up the big budget movie and would inspire many other numbers in Hindi cinema. It would also be used in holi celebrations across India. 

Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jaali Da (Naya Daur): The super-hit 1957 classic had this blockbuster duet of legendary sing­ers Shamshad and Asha Bhosle. Their magical voices brought to life the composition of music director OP Nayyar and words of legendary lyricist Sudhir Ludhianvi. 

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat (Mughal-E-Azam): Shamshad had delivered countless hit duets during her career, but this magnificent qawwali inspired song is perhaps her best. She went up against the-then reigning queen Lata Mangeshkar in what was essentially a musical duel and a standout moment in the record-breaking 1960 classic. Music director Naushad brought out the best in the two singers on top of their game. 

Kajra Mohabbat Wala (Kismat): Shamshad perhaps delivered her best songs for composer OP Nayyar, and this 1968 classic would be their last collaboration. What made her blockbuster duet with Asha Bhosle remarkable was that Shamshad provided the voice for the hero dressed up as a woman. The catchy song still has an addictive quality.