Shamshad Begum: A singer who could elicit a smile and a grin


Shamshad Begum was arguably the only surviving star singer from the pre-Lata Mangeshkar era. Her presence reminded us of a past that will now recede into romantic memory.

“(She) excelled in pre-passion, frothy love songs. Her voice tone, her ability… to be conversational in music without entirely sacrificing musicality… elicit responses ranging from a smile that lights up a face to a wide grin,” late ethnomusicologist Ashok Ranade, wrote about her in his 2006 book, Hindi Film Song: Music Beyond Boundaries.

Shamshad, 94, who died on Wednesday, had roots in Lahore and began her career in Punjabi films. Hers was not a particularly trained voice, but its range, power and sharpness made it stand apart. Classical singers such as Gauh