RAJ BEGUM : Melody Queen of Kashmir

Raj Begum, the legendary singer from Kashmir, was not only a singer but one of the pioneers of women empowerment in Kashmir. She followed her passion and started singing at a time when most women didn’t dare to do so. She broke the taboo of the conservative society and opened doors of opportunity to female singers of Kashmir. Raj Begum’s melodious voice and unique singing style earned her love and appreciation from music lovers of all age groups. She played an important role in popularizing folk music among the general public of Jammu & Kashmir.

Raj Begum was born on 27 March 1927 in Kashmir. She died on 26October 2016 at the age of 89. Her departure from the world marked the end of an era.

Raj Begum technically started her singing career as a wedding singer. She would sing at weddings held in her locality before joining Radio Kashmir in 1954. Begum’s fame exploded when her songs were broadcasted from Radio Kashmir which was her basic platform and she captivated the hearts of millions of listeners with her melodious voice. Right from 1947 when she stepped into Radio Kashmir till her retirement in 1986, she was a rage all around the Valley. That was the era when broadcasting was done only live. She became a household name through her Radio performances. She finally retired from Radio Kashmir in 1986.

The popularity she earned through her radio performances gave her many big opportunities. She was welcomed to give live performances in concerts held in different parts of India as well as abroad. She was known as the Queen of Kashmiri folk songs and gazals. Finding her root in Kashmir, Raj Begum gave voice to the culture of Kashmir through her singing. Begum was one of the most popular female singers of Jammu and Kashmir which resulted in her titles including the ‘Nightingale of Kashmir‘ and ‘Asha Bhosle of Kashmir‘.

The film division, Ministry of Information and & Broadcasting of Government of India created a biographical documentary on the life of Raj Begum. The documentary film, named, “Her Theme of Freedom – Raj Begum – The Melody Queen of Kashmir” was broadcasted at many locations. Though Raj Begum has left us for her heavenly abode, her singing made her immortal.

But, unfortunately, the ‘Nightingale of Kashmir’ went silent when she breathed her last aged 89 after a prolonged illness on October 26, 2016. So, to remember her contribution in folk music and pay tributes to the iconic singer, Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Academy organised a wonderful folk music show at Tagore Hall here where the female singers of the Valley sung some popular songs of Begum.

The Government of India recognized her talent by awarding her the fourth highest civilian award – the Padma Shree, in 2002. She also received a state award from the government of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir in 2009. Again, she was bestowed with Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2013.

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