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Shamshad Begum (April 14, 1919 – April 23, 2013) was an Indian singer who was one of the first playback singers in the Hindi film industry. Begum was born in Amritsar, Punjab. She was a big fan of K.L. Saigal and watched Devdas 14 times. She earned 15 rupees per song and was awarded 5,000 on the completion of the contract on Xenophone, a renowned music recording company.

Sometime back, a controversy erupted in the media, when several publications gave the false news of her death, before it was clarified that the Shamshad Begum who died in 1998 was Saira Banu's (Dilip Kumar's wife) grandmother with the same name. Before her death on 23rd April 2013, The singer had been living with her daughter Usha Ratra and son-in-law in Mumbai, ever since her husband Ganpat Lal Batto died in 1955. She was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2009.

Begum made her debut on radio on Peshawar Radio in Lahore on December 16, 1937, captivating the hearts of her listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. Shamshad was very much conscious of her not so beautiful face and she never posed for any pictures and not many people saw her pictures anywhere. Until the end of the 1970s, nobody knew her face at all, though everybody could recognise her melodious voice as it was used by the great maestros like Naushad Ali and O. P. Nayyar. Even today, her songs from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s are popular and continue to be remixed by music directors.

Begum sang for the All India Radio (AIR) through her musical group 'The Crown Imperial Theatrical Company of Performing Arts', set up in Delhi. The then AIR Lahore helped her entering the world of movies as they frequently broadcast her songs, which induced music directors to use her voice for their films. Shamshad also recorded "naats" and devotional music for a couple of gramophone recording companies. Her crystal-clear voice caught the attention of sarangi maestro Ustad Hussain Bakshwale Saheb, who took her as his disciple. Lahore-based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his earlier films like Khazanchi (1941) and Khandaan (1942). When he moved to Bombay in 1944, Shamshad went with him as a member of his team, leaving behind her family and staying with her Chacha (paternal uncle). She is credited with singing one of the first Westernised songs, Meri jaan...Sunday ke Sunday by C. Ramchandra. O.P. Nayyar describes her voice as that of a "temple bell" for its clarity of tone.

In 1944, when Mehboob Khan launched his historical venture Humayun, Master Ghulam Haider used her voice in the film. That was the time when Amirbai Karnatki was considered the number one playback singer in Bombay. With the introduction of Shamshad Begum in the film world of Bombay, contemporary composers almost fell over each other in booking her for recording of their songs leading to a prolific career until the mid-late 1950s. Music directors like C. Ramchandra, S.D. Burman, Naushad, and O.P.Nayyar used her as their prime female vocalist in the early part of their careers. Shamshad became a national rage between the 1940s and the late 1950s rendering songs with her nasal voice, which helped her carve her independent image--a voice different from her peers--Lata, Asha, Geeta, etc.

Most of her songs were memorable hits. Even the one rendered in 1960s for Kismat, after her retirement: "Kajra mohabbatwala ankhiyon mein aisa dala" composed by O.P. Nayyar, proved a superhit. Her duet with Kishore Kumar, "Meri neendon main tum, meri khwabon mein tum" from Naya Andaz (composed by O. P. Nayyar), similarly, remains almost a touchstone of melodious romance. Throughout her film singing career, she remained a particular favorite with Naushad and Nayyar who used her voice not only to its fullest range but to the maximum extent possible. She became a rage with songs like "O, Lagi Lagi" (Aaan), "Dhadkar Mera Dil" (Babul), "Teri Mehfil Main Kismat Azma kar Hum Bhi Dekhange" (Mughal-E-Azam), "Chhau Main Rakha Virana" (Deedar), "Holi Aayi Re Kanhai" (Mother India)--all hits for which music was directed by Naushad.

Similarly, she gave superhits for Nayyar like "Kabhi Aar, Kabhi Paar" (Aar Paar), "Poochh Mera Kya Naam Re, Nadi Kinare Gaon Re" (CID). Among other notable numbers she rendered were "Saiyan Dil main Aana Re, Aake Chhup Na Jana Re" (Bahaar - S. D. Burman), "Ai Dil Na Mujhe Yaad Dila" (Saawan Aaya Re - Khemchand Prakash) and "Kaahe Koyal Shor Machaye" (Aaag - Ram Ganguly).

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