Legendary Pakistani folk singer Reshma,who mesmerised music lovers in the Indian subcontinent with soulful rendition of songs like ‘Lambi Judai’ and ‘Dama Dam Mast Kalandar’ in her trademark rustic voice,died in Lahore on November 3 after a prolonged battle with throat cancer.
Born in Bikaner,Rajasthan,in a Banjara family,66-year-old Reshma was under treatment after being diagnosed with the disease years ago.
Reshma,known as Nightingale of the Desert,is survived by son Umair and daughter Khadija. Her funeral was held in Lahore and was attended by her relatives and well wishers.
“She had been in coma for the last month and was diagnosed with throat cancer some years ago,” said doctor Rahim of the hospital where she was undergoing treatment.
Reshma’s tribe had migrated to Karachi shortly after partition and the singer,who remained unaffected by the fame,had once said that “the borders do not matter to me…because,an artiste belongs to all”.
Remembering her origins to the sandy lands in India,she had said: “People in India showered me with a lot of admiration. In Pakistan,people have given me respect. But in India also,they listen to me with lot of love. It does not matter to them that I am a Pakistani singer.”
Having received no formal education in music,Reshma was only 12 when she was spotted singing at sufi saint Shahbaz Qalander’s shrine by a television and radio producer,who arranged for her to record the iconic song ‘Laal Meri’ on state-run Pakistan Radio.
The song was an instant hit,and Reshma went on to become one of the most popular folk singers of Pakistan,appearing on television in the 1960s,as well as recording songs for both the Pakistani and Indian film industry.
“Singers of that level and magnitude are an institution in themselves and her passing away means a complete era has passed away. It is a huge loss,” Taimur Rahman,lead singer of Pakistani band Laal,said.
Some of her famous numbers include ‘Hai O Rabba nahion lagda dil mera’ and ‘Ankhiyan no rehen de ankhyan de kol kol’.
Reshma,who has a massive and loyal fan following,received several national awards including ‘Sitara-i-Imtiaz’ and ‘Legends Of Pakistan’.
She was able to perform live in India much later,during the 1980s when India and Pakistan allowed exchange of artistes.
Filmmaker Subhash Ghai used her voice in the film ‘Hero’,which featured one of her most famous songs ‘Lambi Judai’.
Reshma was once invited to meet then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf,a music lover,had come to her aid and gave her Rs 1 million to help pay off a bank loan. He had also put her on a secured assistance of Rs 10,000 per month.
When she was hospitalised in Doctors Hospital at Lahore on April 6,2013,the caretaker government led by Najam Sethi decided to pay all her medical expenses.
Indian and Pakistani music industry mourned the demise of legendary singer Reshma,describing her as a “voice of passion” and “an inspiration to many”.
Pakistani band Junoon’s former guitarist Salman Ahmad tweeted,”A voice of passion not of this earth (RIP) ‘Hayo Rabba'”.
“Tragic. RIP Reshma,” Bollywood music composer Vishal Dadlani wrote on Twitter.