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South Asia mourns the demise of the nightingale of India

Illustration of Lata Mangeshkar by Laxman8 via Pixabay. Remixed by Giovana Fleck. Used under a Pixabay Licence.

Illustration of Lata Mangeshkar by Laxman8 via Pixabay. Remixed by Giovana Fleck. Used under a Pixabay Licence.

Singer Lata Mangeshkar was one of India's biggest cultural icons, and her journey in Bollywood, cannot be pegged as anything but legendary. Her death on February 6, 2022, in Mumbai, India at 92 years of age, is leaving fans across South Asia mourning her absence.

Mangeshkar was fondly known as “the nightingale of India” because she lent the melodious lilt of her voice to innumerable songs for over seven decades, looming taller than any other female singer in Bollywood.

News platform Editorji tweets:

From the beautiful Madhubala in Mahal (1949) to the ravishing Madhuri Dixit in Dil to Pagal Hai (1997) and beyond, every prominent female lead of Bollywood has moved their lips to her iconic songs. Songs form an integral part of films in Bollywood. Actors lip-syncing to the voice of playback singers is a common practice in Bollywood musicals.

Mangeshkar was nothing if not versatile. Apart from Hindi and Marathi, she sang in 24 other languages, mostly for films. She had sung songs for several genres and different moods. Her music embodied the exuberance of youthful romance, deep sorrow, haunting nightscapes, spiritual bliss and patriotic fervour, all through her powerful, yet delicate voice. There’s seldom a dry eye when her poignant song, “Ae Mere watan ke logon, zara ankh mein bhar lo pain” (people of my nation, please shed some tears) echoes in a roomful of people. She worked alongside legends such as Kishore Kumar, RD Burman and Laxmikant Pyarelal, iconic pioneers who transformed the Indian music industry.

Lata Mangeshkar in 2008. Image via Wikipedia by Bollywood Hungama. CC BY 3.0.

Lata Mangeshkar in 2008. Image via Wikipedia by Bollywood Hungama. CC BY 3.0.

Mangeshkar was born into a family of artists. Deenanath Mangeshkar, her father was a Marathi and Konkani musician. Her younger sister Asha Bhosle is a well known Indian singer as well. Unfortunately, Mangeshkar lost her father at the tender age of 13, leaving her to support the family. However, the vagaries of life did not prevent her from pursuing a career in music.

During her stellar seven decades of artistry, she won several awards including the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India. Bollywood, which still reverberates the many songs she sang, also bestowed a number of awards on her during award ceremonies, and she received much international acclaim. Lata Mangeshkar holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most recorded artist with a whopping 30,000 songs to her credit.

Here are a few tributes that poured from her fans across South Asia to honour Lata through social media.

India

The Indian cricket team wore black armbands on February 6, 2022, during the ODI match against the West Indies.

Actor Randeep Hooda mentions on Twitter how she matters to India, since before its independence:

Indian student Indraneel Dharwadkar asserts:

Pakistan

Journalist Murtaza Solangi from Islamabad mentions that she was also popular in neighbouring Pakistan:

Former Chief Minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif recalls how his generation grew up with her songs:

Pakistan's Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain tweeted:

Bangladesh

Lata Mangeshkar also made a mark in the world of Bengali music as her songs captivated the people in Bangladesh over the decades.

Bangladeshis thankfully acknowledged how Mangeshkar took part in concerts to raise funds for the Bangladeshi refugees in Kolkata and Agartala during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

Musician and activist Syeda Tanzeena Imam remembers on Facebook:

শিল্পী লতা মঙ্গেশকর ১৯৭১ সালে বাংলাদেশের শরণার্থীদের আর্থিক সহায়তা প্রদানের জন্য বোম্বেতে বিশেষ কনসার্টের আয়োজন করেছিলেন। সেই অর্থ শরণার্থী শিবিরে তিনি দান করেছিলেন। এছাড়াও শিল্পী, সাহিত্যিক, বুদ্ধিজীবীদের নিয়ে বোম্বাই শহরে মিছিল ও সমাবেশ করেছিলেন লতাজী।

Musician Lata Mangeshkar organized a fund-raising concert in Mumbai in 1971 for the Bangladeshi refugees who fled during the Liberation war. She also organized processions and rallies in Bombay with artists, writers and intellectuals to raise funds for the refugees.

Nepal

Many Nepalis, including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, acknowledged that Mangeshkar sang a number of songs in the Nepali language. According to news reports, she didn’t want other singers to cover her songs in Nepali.

Educator and blogger Bikash Chandra says:

Journalist and writer Kanak Mani Dixit paid tribute to Mangeshkar:

To listen to some songs from Lata Mangeshkar's musical legacy, see Global Voices's Spotify playlist.

As we bid farewell to Lata Mangeshkar, the legacy of her music shall forever live with us. As will her infectious smile, simple saree and the red bindi that adorned her forehead. May she rest in peace.

Sanjib Chaudhary, Umaima Ahmed and Rezwan also contributed to this post.

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