KARACHI, Jan 19: Renowned singer Mehnaz Begum passed away on Saturday. She was 55.

Mehnaz was on a plane, going to the United States for treatment of a respiratory ailment when her condition worsened. During a stopover in Bahrain, she was taken to a hospital where she died.

The singer had been visiting the US intermittently for treatment and was in Karachi for the last couple of months.

Mehnaz was born in 1958 and received initial training in music from her mother Kajjan Begum, a distinguished singer and soz khwan. Her father was also an accomplished singer and soz khwan. The family belonged to Mahmudabad in UP (some suggest Lucknow), India, and migrated to Pakistan in the ’50s.

Mehnaz began her career as a playback singer in the early ’70s. Her mellifluous voice and control over the sur instantly made her popular among music composers and film audiences. She sang for a number of films a majority of which became popular.

Surrayya Bhopali was one of the first films that she sang songs for and Zeba Bakhtiar’s Babu was the last. Some of the films in which her playback singing was widely appreciated were Haider Ali, Paristish, Bandish, Zindagi and Aina and some of her famous songs were ‘Mujhe dil se na bhulana’ (Aina), ‘Do piyasey dil aik huay’ (Bandish), ‘Kion roey shehnai’ (Haider Ali) and ‘Ja ja ri koyalia’ (Haider Ali).

Mehnaz Begum also sang for television and was equally fond of ghazal gaeki. She had command over light classical genres such as thumri and dadra.

Talking to Dawn, sitar player Ustad Nafees Ahmed said: “It is indeed a great loss. Nobody can escape the natural phenomenon of death, but people like us, who are associated with the music scene, also get saddened by the fact that there is no replacement for such a talent. She was an extremely hard working vocalist who used to take her job very seriously. She was a true artiste and this can be gauged from the fact that if, while performing, she committed any mistake she would herself realise it and rectify it. Technically, there were certain extraordinary features in her singing which can only be acquired by learning from an Ustad. She was a humble individual and the new crop of singers can learn a lot from her.”

Singer and actor Khaled Anam said: “It’s a huge loss. We had already suffered the loss of great singers like Madam Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hasan, and now Mehnaz has also left us. She was a focused singer and used to rehearse for quite a long time before performing. She was adept at many types of singing, including playback, light classical and ghazal. Her rendition of ghazal ‘Ab ke tajdeed-i-wafa ka nahin imkaan’ was exemplary.”

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