RIP Raj Begum : ‘Nightingale of Kashmir’ is No more with us

Srinagar, Oct 26 : Legendary Kashmiri singer Raj Begum, the voice that mesmerized millions for over seven decades, died here on Wednesday, family sources said. She was 89.

Begum was born of Ghulam Rasool Sheikh of Magarmal Bagh in Srinagar on March 27, 1927. Like most of the great singers, she started singing in her childhood. As she grew up, she started singing in weddings. Post-1947, when the Radio Kashmir Srinagar started operating here, she was one of the main melodies that the station would broadcast. She retired in 1986.

Begum, called the “Nightingale of Kashmir”, breathed her last after a protracted illness, a relative said.

She was one of the most recognized female singers in the Kashmir Valley, having rendered thousands of songs from Radio Kashmir in Srinagar and in live concerts at other places in India and abroad.

Born in 1927, she was honoured with Padma Shri in 2002 and got Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 2013. The latter is India’s highest honour to a practicing artists.

The journey to the hearts of Kashmiris was an uphill task for Begum, who was also fondly called the “Asha Bhosle of Kashmir”. Singing, particularly for women, was considered a big taboo in the conservative society those days.

Her captivating voice has ruled generations of Kashmir’s music lovers. She had taken off as a wedding singer and then rose gradually to become one of the most powerful female voices in Kashmir.

Undeterred by criticism from family and relatives, Begum continued to pursue her career shifting from festive marriage singing to melodies and classical singing after she joined Radio Kashmir in the 1940s.

Legendary Bollywood star, Dilip Kumar who heard her at a hotel in Srinagar in the 1970s, famously eulogised her saying, “As long as Kashmir has Raj Begum its mesmerizing voices shall never die.”

Survived by two sons, a daughter and a number of grand children, Begum was putting up with her daughter who lives in Chanpora.

Begum’s death has been widely condoled.

With Agency Inputs