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A.R. Rahman on Lata Mangeshkar’s Legacy: Will Cherish Her Music Values, Foundation and Impact

“The void…when I think about it, it’s like a huge void,” Rahman shares a memoir on the legend who’s left

Debashree Dutta Feb 06, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of A.R. Rahman

Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary singer’s demise has left millions grieving. The ‘Nightingale Of India’, who captivated generations through her songs, has passed away at the age of 92. Her legacy will remain nevertheless through songs she has immortalized. As the entire nation laments, ace musician and composer A.R. Rahman shares a memoir, a note of remembrance on how ‘Lata Ji’ has had a profound influence on him and his music.

“It’s a very, very sad day for all of us. When people live, we all take it for granted, and somebody like Lata Ji is not just a singer and not just an icon, I think part of her soul’s consciousness is India. India is Hindustani music, Urdu poetry, Hindi poetry, Bengali and so many other languages, and this void is going to remain forever for all of us. In my experience, it goes back to my dad, I believe.”

“He passed away when I was very young. He had a picture of her. So he would wake up to her face and get inspired to go to recordings. So it started there. And to me, also, to record a few songs with her, sing along with her, be a part of a show where I learn probably one of the most important things about performing on stage… I have never taken singing seriously, I’ve always thought of myself as a music composer. And then a few of the songs that I’d composed were for her. After the rehearsals at 4 pm she would go and sit with her assistant and start singing the songs very slowly and every lyric clearly. And I’d just pass that side and say is that her practicing for the show? And that one incident changed my life. So then every show I go to, I just go off and put the Tanpura and practice, do the warmup, with every lyric coming out the way it comes out along with the intention behind the song.”

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“One day, I was just speaking to her and she said you know in those days Naushad Saab would make us come for rehearsals for 11 days. I was like how long did you take? She said I’d learn it immediately, but still, he insisted that we go for 11 days of rehearsals because then you understand the depth of each song and you’ve so much of investment, love, spirituality, passion. And I think for the younger generation, it’s important to lean into something and believe in it. Give it all and not expect any returns. This is the kind of thing that I learned from one of the last pillars, in the last century, the legacy of Indian music. The void…when I think about it, it’s like a huge void. Even though we have her songs, not having her is a grief, a void that will be very difficult to fill. I know that there are hundreds and thousands of singers that got inspired by her songs and are still singing and probably taking it much further in their own way, but still, I think the impact, the foundation of it along with the generation of hers — Mohammed Rafi Saab, Kishor da, Manna Dey, SD Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Naushad Saab and all those legends — that’s something that I really value for rest of my life. All we can do is just celebrate and learn from this legend who’s left. God bless her soul.”

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