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    Monday, 21 January 2013

    Mehnaz Begum : A melodious voice that will live on

    She had just stepped down from the stage after giving a tribute to the queen of melody, Noor Jehan. The crowd wanted more but her health confined her to shorter performances.

    Behind the stage, her feet trembling from weakness, she placed herself on the first available chair. Seeing her alone with no entourage, I made my way towards her with a paper and pen. Before I could speak, she held my hand and said bashfully: “I hope you don’t have a camera … I’m not as beautiful as singers usually are, so I prefer it when people listen to my voice.”

    And that voice was still as soothing as it was in Shabnam, and her charm still that of a teenage girl.

    Mehnaz Begum passed away last night at the age of 55 but her soulful voice will continue to ring for another life-time in the memories of her admirers.
    The late singer had been suffering from diabetes and was on her way to the US for treatment when she passed away.
    Mehnaz grew up under the auspices of her mother and mentor, Kajjan Begum, who herself was one of the most celebrated singers of pre-partition India.

    As soon as Mehnaz entered the music industry, her unique tonal quality and magnificent expression brought her at par with contemporaries like Naheed Akhtar. She went on to become an essential cultural representative of Pakistan along with talented friends and contemporaries such as Tina Sani, Nayyara Noor and Abida Parveen.

    “She was the sweetest in our gang and wherever we went her presence decorated the occasion,” Sani said while talking to The Express Tribune.

    “I remember there was a day when Abida started singing in our room and slowly Mehnaz joined in and as soon as that happened Abida started crying and I couldn’t do anything but filming that divine experience with my handicam,” Tina recalled.
    From the music of classic films like “Aina” and “Qurbani” to countless solo performances to some beautiful renditions of Ahmad Faraz’s poetry, Mehnaz brought a new flavour to ghazal singing.

    With the decline of the film industry, Mehnaz hardly got to perform, apart from the occasional tribute performances. Her latest tribute to Noor Jehan reflected the amount of singing that was left in her.

    “It won’t be an understatement to call her the Lata Mangeshkar of Pakistan,” said pop singer Mohammad Ali Shehki.

    Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2013.

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