Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar, ‘the Nightingale’, dies aged 92


Lata Mangeshkar, one of India’s greatest cultural icons and a singer who defined music and melody for generations of people, died on Sunday morning.

She was 92 years old and is survived by her four siblings. She was hospitalized on January 11 after being infected with what a doctor described as COVID-19.

Mangeshkar died of “multiple organ failure after more than 28 days of hospitalization following COVID-19”, said Dr Pratit Samdani, who was treating her at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, according to Reuters TV partner ANI.

Mangeshkar’s voice rang out on television sets, over crackle airwaves and in cinemas for most of independent India’s three-quarters of a century, making her the defining voice of many generations and earning her the title of “nightingale”.

“I am distressed beyond words,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter.

She will receive a state funeral and the government will observe national mourning with the flag at half mast until Monday, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“The kind and caring Lata Didi has left us,” the Prime Minister wrote, using an endearing term for his older sister.

“She leaves a void in our country that cannot be filled. Future generations will remember her as a pillar of Indian culture, whose melodious voice had an unparalleled ability to hypnotize people.

Born in 1929 in pre-independence India, Mangeshkar began singing as a teenager and over a 73-year career has sung over 15,000 songs in 36 languages.

She captivated music-mad Indians with her melodious voice and sheer range, singing everything from patriotic songs to romantic numbers in both films and albums.

The world of Bollywood – where movies were unthinkable without at least six songs and everything from romance to heartbreak was told through a ballad – was where Mangeshkar cut his teeth and s made a name later.

Other Bollywood personalities and politicians offered their condolences.

“Love, respect and prayers,” tweeted Indian Oscar-winning and Grammy-winning musician AR Rahman. Mangeshkar sang a number of his award-winning songs.

Classically trained, Mangeshkar shaped her voice to the demands of singing for Bollywood films, even voicing songs in her 60s for an actress who was in her 20s.

His songs motivated millions of Indians during the wars with China and Pakistan to pay tribute to the defense forces. Some of his songs are used as prayers in temples, shrines and schools.

“My voice is a gift from God,” she once told an interviewer. “I learned to move with my voice. When I sang a lullaby, I became a mother, when it was a romantic song, I was a lover.

The only songs she refused to sing were cabaret numbers and songs that had bawdy or racy lyrics, saying in later interviews that these did not align with her personal values. Mangeshkar nevertheless dominated the Hindi film industry for nearly five decades until the 2000s, along with his younger sister Asha Bhosle.

Mangeshkar’s critics have accused her of using her Bollywood influence to limit the entry of newcomers. Such was her influence that authorities in Mumbai in 2006 scrapped a planned highway flyover after she objected it would disrupt her privacy.

Known for her soft voice and her sari, her hair in two schoolgirl braids, Mangeshkar was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001. She was awarded France’s highest civilian honour, the Legion of Honor , in 2009.

“Music is incomplete without your voice,” actor Amitabh Bachchan said of Mangeshkar in 2019, commemorating his 90th birthday. “He did the work of the saints.”

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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