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Punjabi folk singer Gurmeet Bawa — lambi hek di mallika — dies

Bawa is survived by her husband Kirpal and daughters Glory Bawa and Simran Bawa. Her third daughter Lachi Bawa, who was also a folk singer, died of cancer in February last year.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: November 22, 2021 11:30:02 am
Folk singer Gurmeet Bawa (File photo)

Renowned Punjabi folk singer Gurmeet Bawa, popularly known as ‘lambi hek di Mallika’, died Sunday at an Amritsar hospital. She was 77.

She was taken to the hospital Saturday after she complained of weakness, said husband Kirpal Bawa, also a folk singer. “She was feeling weak and tired. She had no health issues earlier and had been performing till three days back,” said Kirpal Bawa.

Among the first women artistes to perform on Doordarshan, the native of village Kothey in Batala of Gurdaspur district, was best known for her 45-second long ‘hek’ (the alaap during the opening of a song) considered the longest ever by any Punjabi folk singer.

Born in 1944, Bawa wanted to be a teacher but, encouraged by her husband, she took to singing professionally. She proved her mettle and created ripples in the Punjabi music world with her rendition of ‘Jugni’.

“I wanted to see her as the brightest singer in the entire world. She did not disappoint me,” said Kirpal.

“Gurmeet was the one who started the trend of long ‘hek’ before starting a song. It was in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, where she created the record of 45-second hek,” he added. The record was made during the International Art Festival in 1987. Artistes from 18 countries had performed there.

Awards and trophies of folk singer Gurmeet Bawa (File photo)

Dr Ravjot Kaur, an associate professor from Kapurthala, who did her PhD on Bawa’s folk songs, said, “She was probably the first artiste who went home to home in villages of Punjab to collect folk music treasure and preserve it.”

Describing her 45-second long ‘hek’, Bawa in an interview to Ravjot Kaur had said, “Suddenly there were thunderous claps…I kept singing…I don’t know when it got so long. When we stepped out of the venue, a woman came running and said ‘Ma’am, you are great. Your ‘Ho… (hek) was 45 seconds long…’.”
The lyrics of the first song that she performed at the festival was penned by Gurcharan Boparai. It went: ‘Sone rang phullan wale, toriye de anney banney.. haaniyan main phiran pailan pabandi, gori khushi vich nachdi tey gaandi..’.

‘Kaharon doli na chayo, ke mera babul aaya ni’ and ‘Hariye ni ras bhariye khajurey, kiney ditta enni door hai’ are among her most famous folk songs.

She had started her career in 1968 and was known to sing with Punjabi folk instruments such as algoze, chimta, dholki and tumbi. In most of her performances, she was accompanied by ‘Chacha Chimtey Wala’, a musician who used to play traditional instrument ‘chimta’. He too died some years back.

Raju, a dholak player who used to accompany Bawa, said, “Three days back we performed at a sangeet…She used to sing ‘suhaag, ghodi’ songs.”
Bawa had represented India at various music festivals in the then USSR, Japan, Libya, Syria, Malaysia, France, Thailand and Pakistan.

 

Bawa had represented India at various music festivals in the then USSR, Japan, Libya, Syria, Malaysia, France, Thailand and Pakistan.

A Japanese company had recorded her sings voice and released the album in 1988. Describing her work, the Japanese company stated that it was “recording of the folksong of the area around Indus river in Punjab region… Her powerful voice…is overwhelming”.

During her career, Gurmeet Bawa received many accolades including the State Award by the Punjab government, Sangeet Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the national Devi Ahilya Award by the Madhya Pradesh government and the Shiromani Gayika Award by the Punjabi Language Department.

Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit expressed condolences over her demise. “The death of the Nightingale of Punjab is a great loss to Punjab and Punjabi folk lovers worldwide”, said the governor and added that the Presidential Citation holder will always be remembered for her contribution to folk singing.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, in a tweet, said, “Shocked and saddened to hear the news of Gurmeet Bawa Ji’s demise. Her contribution to Punjabi folk music is indelible”.

Former CM Capt Amarinder Singh also condoled the death of Bawa. “Her passing away will leave a big void in the Punjabi music industry,” he said.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Higher Education Minister Pargat Singh also expressed grief over the passing of the eminent folk singer.

In a statement, Randhawa said Bawa “carved out a niche for herself with her soulful and melodious voice and served the Punjabi folk music for more than half a century.”

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the “legendary singer’s contribution to the Punjabi musical industry, and achievements will always be remembered”.

Former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur said, “The Shiromani Gayika awardee will always be remembered for glorifying Punjabi folk on international platforms. Legends never die, they continue to live in their works”.

Bawa is survived by her husband Kirpal and daughters Glory Bawa and Simran Bawa. Her third daughter Lachi Bawa, who was also a folk singer, died of cancer in February last year.

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