Raj Begum- the Legend - watsupptoday.com
Raj Begum- the Legend
Posted 08 Dec 2016 10:43 AM

There have been many excellent Kashmiri singers before Raj Begum and there will come many excellent singers after her, but her unique singing style will remain legendary and continue to warm our hearts forever.
The following songs of Raj Begum have entered the folklore of Kashmir:
Subh phul bulbulav tul shore-googa
Vyasiye gulan aavuy bahar
Rum ghyam sheeshas byegur gav bane myon
Wal az vyasiye dokh sukh mashrith sheraw loluk bagh
Kyo roze purdan chaaye chaaye soze-jigar myon
Wola wav wanay soz
Kya kya wanay aye dost chey
The reason why these songs have become part of the folk-lore is not only due to the quality of their lyrics but also quite a bit due to the way they were sung. Raj Begum has a deep haunting voice, which pierces the heart of sorrow. And sorrow is the heart of human condition: sad songs are more remembered than the happy songs.
Raj Begum was born at Magarbal Bagh in Srinagar on March 27, 1927. Her father was Ghulam Rasool Sheikh. Like most of the great singers she started singing in her childhood. As she grew up she sang in weddings. But as Naya Kashmir movement took root in Kashmir, for the first time in their long history common Kashmiri people started tasting freedom. With the freedom came the chance to express their pent-up emotions suppressed for so long. Radio Kashmir began to broadcast Kashmiri musical programs. In 1954, introduced by the well-known folk singer Ghulam Qadir Langoo, Raj Begum started singing at Radio Kashmir. She attracted immediate attention because of the way she rendered songs in Gulrez. She went on to sing with Radio Kashmir until 1986.
Raj Begum has sung in many different genres: folk, religious, light, romantic, ghazals, etc. No one knows exactly how many songs she has sung, as in the beginning days of Radio Kashmir, there were no recordings made of the songs sung by singers, as it had no recording equipment. Singers sang live. Often no paper records were kept of the songs sung. Some people believe she has sung a few thousand songs.
Raj Begum, along with Naseem Akhtar, broke the cultural barrier of women singing publicly. Until when she joined Radio Kashmir in 1954, female singers would sing in a guarded manner, similar to their expected behavior in society. But Raj Begum’s uninhibited, high-pitch, sonorous voice changed that. She sang from her heart, unmindful of cultural constraints. So, she ushered a new freedom for women in Kashmir.
It is the opinion of many professional singers and music watchers in Kashmir that Raj Begum was the greatest modern Kashmiri singer. Like Dal Lake Raj Begum is a legendary symbol of Kashmir.
She had the courage to break the social stigma of women singing in public, when she along with another great Kashmiri singer Naseem Akhtar, went to sing for Radio Kashmir. She was married to Qadir Ganderbali, who was a D.I.G. Police with the Jammu And Kashmir State whenhe passed away several years ago. She lived at Channapora, Srinagar.
When I asked her at what age did she tell her family that she was going to be a professional singer. She told me that it was 21. I asked her this question because in the days of her youth singing was considered to be a low-level profession, more so for women, who would be taken to be of low moral caliber. I further asked her what difficulties she faced in the society because of her profession. She told me that her husband forbade her to sing publicly. But after a show of rage about it he let her sing. She also told me that the renowned ghazal singer Begum Akhtar told her to switch to ghazal singing.
Further conversation with her elicited that though she had been bestowed a thousand awards but was hardly rewarded monetarily. I learned furthermore from other sources that she was poor, as the sole source of her income before her retirement had been the Radio Kashmir salary, which is so meager that it is a cruel joke. Here we have the greatest singer of Kashmir having difficulty making two ends meet. In Kashmir artists do not amount to much in public estimation. They cannot make a living on their artistic work. Any nation that does not value its artists is a backward nation, as art uplifts the human soul equal in caliber to religion.
Called aslo as Nighingale of Kashmir, she will be remembered for her melodious voice.

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