The Nightingale of Kashmir, Raj Begum, who enthralled millions with her mellifluous voice for more than seven decades, passed away on Wednesday after a protracted illness. She was 89.
Born in 1927, she started singing when it was considered a taboo for women in the deeply conservative Kashmir of the time.
“She started at a time when women were not even allowed to move out of their homes. Singing that time was out of question. Her contribution only allowed female singers to come out and make their mark,” popular Kashmiri singer Waheed Jeelani said.
A young Begum began her singing career with performances at weddings, gradually graduating to Radio Kashmir and live concerts across India and abroad.
Known as the queen of Kashmiri folk music and ghazals, Begum was honoured with a Padma Shri in 2002 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2013.
“There can be no match to her contribution. It is a huge loss for the fraternity,” Jeelani said.
Her songs such as Mashravthas Janani Cze Kar Yaad Pemai Be, Wesye Gulan Aavay Bahar Az Saali Antan Baliyaar, Dil Chooran Hai Dil Nivum Shaman; Paaman Thavanam Jaaiy and Rum Gaem Sheshas Begur Gov Ban Myun are household hits in the Valley.
Begum was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday night after she complained of chest congestion. She breathed her last the following morning.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Raj Begum. She was a singer who gave voice to Kashmiri culture,” state culture minister Haseeb Drabu said.
Begum popularised Kashmiri classical poetry by taking some inaccessible verses to the people.
“Along with Ghulam Hassan Sofi, she can be credited with creating a style and school of Kashmiri genre. Listening to her was pure joy and songs like Mashraev Thas Janane, Rum Gaem Sheshas transport you to another world,” Drabu said.