This article has been written by Raaj Bothra ji, a fellow music enthusiast on her Anniversary recently. Thanks a lot to him for writing it and we look forward to more posts by him!
Often I asked myself who is your most favourite female playback singer. My mind voted for Geeta Dutt but my heart went with Shamshad Begum. The voice which Naushad described as “Bells ringing in the temple” always rings a bell to me. I can not recall which was the first song which made a mark so strong on me but I remember even in my school days I hummed Badi Mushkil Se Dil ( Naghma ).
On the occasion of Holi it was customary for every Radio channel to play Holi songs but I waited for only one song Holi Ayee Re ( Mother India )
One after another song,my interest grew more in Shamshad Begum. Some years ago when I heard Ab Din Doob Gayo ( Dhoop Chhaon 1954 ) on Radio Ceylon I wrote my first and only Farmayshi Letter to them requesting to play this song again.
Once I was talking with VAK Rangarao, noted Film Historian and Record Collector about female playback singers of yesteryears. He,being an avid Geeta Dutt fan was praising her. When I asked him to say something about Shamshad Begum as I am her fan he paused and replied “ Well perhaps a singer can sing 30-40% Lata Mangeshkar or 10-15% Geeta Dutt but no one can sing even 1% Shamshad Begum”.
He was very right. Shamshad Begum had not only a unique voice but an unmatched style of playback singing. She was effortless always. I had heard her first song a Punjabi Tappa ( Courtesy Gajendra Khanna ) and the latest ones too. She did not change although her voice matured a bit with age but still keeping the same vibrance and the same innocence intact. Her voice was not like Rice or Pickle which needs time for curing, she was like an unpeated Scotch which is always intoxicating but gains more subtle effects with maturity.
She could dwell on each octave with perfect ease and without losing grip over the tune and notes. Her flow of voice was natural. Be it a low pitch song like Man Bhooli Kathayen Yaad Na Kar ( Doosri Shadi )
or a high pitch song like Sari Umaran De Pe Gaye ( Do Lachchiyan ).
One prominent aspect of Film Song is to say Aaaa Oooo or Uiii or any other word whether it has a meaning or not, in just one or two seconds with ascend and descend ( Aaroh and Avroh ). Every singer does it with their own style. Shamshad Begum to me was best in this. It seems as her voice touched the another echoing voice in her vocal chords while doing so and than came back to it’s original place. For instance Mere Piya aaaa ( Patanga )or Bas (Baaa S ) Dil Ki Izazat. ( Nirala )There are many such songs.
Another unique aspect was her humming. Such was her voice quality that even when she hummed ,it gave impression as if she is singing. Mohabbet Meri Rang ( Nirala ).
Comedy songs are said to be most difficult to sing because you need to do many innovations with your voice. Not every singer could do it. More often the comedy part seemed “created” but with Shamshad Begum it happened. Jo Tum Karo a duet with Kishor Kumar ( Ada ), Mere Dil Men Gudgudi with G M Durrani ( Bade Bhaiya ) with Ah and Ui. There are many more. Probably the highest by a female singer.
She had a “Stand Apart” voice. In most of duets her voice eclipsed her counterparts’ voice specially in female duets. I would like give example of Door Nagriya Tori ( Film Sapna ). A duet with Geeta Dutt, an equally accomplished singer yet it is Shamshad Begum who had the edge.
I wonder if there is any tandem song of her ? I am not counting Kabhi Dil Dil Se ( Anokhi Ada ) as I think Shamshad Begum’s few lines were used only in the Film.
Every singer has sung almost every genre in their career. Shamshad Begum has done that too but it is she who “visualised” songswhile singing as she told herself Sawan Ke Nazare ( Khajanchi ). To me this is evident in many of her songs. Her other Sawan song Aa Bhi Jao Sajna ( Actor ) or a sad Sawan song Tumhe Baghon Men ( Maghroor ) Barbadiye Dil Ko ( Paras ) etc.
Same is true in her romantic songs like Ankh Mili Dil ( Chandni Raat ), Mere Dil Men Aaiye ( Dholak ) etc etc.
She was the most sought after singer at one time yet too humble and simple. Usha ( Daughter of Shamshad Begum ) tells that she helped many aspirants in shaping up their careers and almost all of them chose to forget her when they achieved success but Shamshad never complained. Complaining or regretting was not in her nature. Such a gracious lady she was.
On her Death Anniversary my Salaam to Aapa ji.