Shamshad Begum was one of the oldest and among the first playback singers of Bollywood. She was born on April 14, 1919 in Mumbai. Maharashtra. She was known for her distinct voice and her versatility in the languages that she sung in. She has sung in more than 6000 songs. They were in Hindi and Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi languages.
Shamshad Begum’s singing talent was spotted by her Principal at very early age. She had a very clear voice and that made her head singer of her school. At young age she started to sings at religious functions. She also used to sing qawwalis and Ghazals. Looking at the amount of talent she had, her uncle took her to a recording studio secretly. She was selected immediately after she started singing and signed a contract with the label. Her uncle convinced her father to let Shamshad Begum continue singing as a career.
She recorded the album. It was very popular in the elite circles of the society. She always performed in a burka, keeping in with traditional way. Her big break came in the form of singing on the radio. She sung for All India Radio (AIR) in 1937. She became very popular on the radio due to her melodious and crystal clear voice. This made her popular in the film crowd too. She was then offered to sing for the movies from that year.
She even got selected as an actress for a film. But she could not take up the role as her father said that if she acted, she should forget her singing career. She was also objected from getting photographed. No one saw her picture until she imposed self retirement from singing in 1970s.
She married a lawyer at the age of 15 without the consent of her parents. He died in 1955 in a car accident. After that Shamshad became very reclusive and rarely accepted singing offers. Many hits of her came during this time. She permanently stopped singing in 1975-76.
This became a huge bonus for upcoming singers like Lata Mangeshkar and her sister. Singers Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle were often asked to mimic Shamshad begum’s voice as she had stopped taking offers.
During her singing career that spans more than 40 years, she has given some memorable songs that have touched hearts of millions. Some of them include “Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar”, “Kahin Pe Nigahen Kahin Pe Nishana”, “Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re” – CID (1956), “Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar Laga Teer-e-nazar”, “Meri Neendon Main Tum” (Duet with Kishore Kumar) – Naya Andaz, “Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jaali Da” – Naya Daur and many more. She has worked with almost all the top music directors of her time. Even today, many of her songs are turned into remixes.
She was conferred Padma Bhushan for her contribution to hindi music in the year 2009. Sadly, she breath her last breath on April 23, 2013. She will be remembered for a very long period for sure.