Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Lata Dinanath Mangeshkar, 28 September 1929, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India) Legendary Indian playback vocalist (see Filmi), hailed as the supreme voice of Indian popular music and the Queen of Bollywood (as the Bombay equivalent of Hollywood is dubbed). Lata Mangeshkar is an Indian institution not solely because of her prodigious output but also because many of her performances are considered timeless; she sang the soundtrack for millions of Indians' lives. Until the '91 edition, when her entry disappeared, the Guinness Book Of Records listed her as the most recorded artist in the world, with no fewer than 30,000 solo, duet and chorus-backed songs recorded '48-87 in 20 Indian languages; by '90 she was said to have worked on over 2,000 film soundtracks, pre-recording the songs to which the leading ladies lip-synched. Some of these statistics can be taken with a pinch of salt (the Indian press put the hype in hyperbole); nevertheless it is astonishing that her output was said to have been restricted by periodic sinus problems. Her position was hard won as rivalry was cut-throat. There have been many stories of ructions with her sister, Asha Bhosle, the other major candidate for best-loved playback singer, and tastes tend to polarize between them: Mangeshkar is often perceived as almost virginal in her symbolic white sari, while Bhosle's more versatile and mimetic voice has earmarked her for raunchier and more experimental singing parts. Dinanath Mangeshkar, their father, owned a theatrical company and was a classical singer, a disciple of the Gwalior school, and gave her singing lessons from early childhood; she also studied under Aman Ali Bhendibazarwale and later Amanat Khan Dewaswale and Tulsidas Sharma. Also in the family were sisters Meena and Usha, and brother Hridaynath, a music director, whose soundtrack work (e.g. Lekin '90 on EMI India) has strongly featured Mangeshkar. Usha also became a playback singer, but only Asha Bhosle's career can compare with her sister's output.

Mangeshkar's first playback recording, for the Marathi-language film Kiti Hasaal '42, stayed in the can; playback singers were not credited then, but by '49 she was so well known that she had to be credited in actor-director Raj Kapoor's '49 film Barsaat (soundtrack included in Barsaat/Aah/Aag compilation on EMI India, not to be confused with remakes). Barsaat and Aag were both shot '48 and she scooped the job as the singing voice for Nargis, a screen goddess of Indian film; she went on to sing for every major actress, gradually ousting Shamshad Begum, who had become the queen of filmi in the wake of the departure of the numinous Noor Jehan to Pakistan '47, the year of Partition. By '52 Mangeshkar's paramountcy was assured. She had been helped by All India Radio's rather straitlaced programming policy, which meant that stations such as Radio Goa and Radio Ceylon had fans in the Indian heartland (similar to the effect of Continental radio in Britain during the Swing Era, and Radio Luxembourg and pirate stations in the early years of rock'n'roll). Those stations broke songs such as 'Aayega Aayega Aayega' (written by Khemchand Prakash). Mangeshkar's close association with many of the top music directors meant that top-notch material went to her, while in Pakistan Noor Jehan still reigned supreme (but there was always the unspoken anti-Pakistani element, which meant that Noor Jehan did not perform in India again until '83). Mangeshkar was to be music director '57 for M. V. Raman's Jhuki Jhuki Ankhiyan but this project was stillborn; it was for her playback singing that she was taken to the nation's bosom. The sheer scale of recording activity makes detailed examination of her output impossible here; most releases have appeared on EMI India (to give its umbrella title) but others on labels such as Music India and CBS.

Mukesh And Lata Mangeshkar on HMV India '77 was a tribute album recorded at concerts in the USA and Canada '76, songs from 19 films (including Behti Hai, Milan, Sazaa, Taj Mahal and Woh Kaun Thi) with which the male playback singer Mukesh was associated. Lata Mangeshkar In Concert With The Wren Orchestra '79 on EMI found her in the unlikely setting of an East/West fusion project. Her work has been heavily plundered for anthologies. A sample of her film-related work might include The Legend, Hits All The Way, the two-volume Lata Live In England (made '88 with other performers including Usha Mangeshkar and Nitin Mukesh), Evergreen Hits, Great Artiste Great Hits, Dard Bhare Geet, Lata Mangeshkar Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Lata Mangeshkar At The Palladium (both of which contain live versions of film hits), A Tribute To Mukesh, Sentimental Lata Mangeshkar, Yaadon Ki Manzil, In A Blue Mood, In A Romantic Mood, Diamonds Forever, Classical Songs From Films, Haunting Melodies Of Lata Mangeshkar and the three-volume set of Lata In Her Own Voice (which intersperses commentary from her and others from the Channel 4 TV documentary of that name, produced and directed by Nasreen Munni Kabeer), all on EMI India.

She has been heard in other contexts such as Bhajanarpan on Music India '84, which paired her with the Northern Indian (Hindustani) classical vocalist Bhimsen Joshi (d 24 January 2011, aged 88), and Sajda '92 on HMV, a collaboration with ghazal singer Jagjit Singh. She duetted extensively with a male playback vocalists; Hits In The 80's '90 on EMI India, subtitled 'Duets by Lata Mangeshkar', includes work with S. P. Balasubramanyam, Nitan Mukesh and Kishore Kumar. She was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award by the Indian government '90. Numerous thematic compilations of variable quality incl. the duet anthology The Best of Mohd. Rafi And Lata Mangeshkar on Music India to the straightforward historical The Golden Collection in EMI India's CD series of the same name (reissued '95 and described with wilful excess as 'capturing the most legendary and unforgettable melodies spanning 60 years and 6,000 plus soundtracks'), or Shraddhanjali Volume 2 '94 on EMI India, the second volume of tributes to Indian film music's 'Immortals', which paid tribute to Mukesh, Mohd. Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt (the earlier Geeta Roy) and Parul Ghosh, a better introduction than most of the label's recyclings and theme albums. Although her spoken introductions in Hindi are not translated, the lavish scale and sweep of her film songs illustrate how she helped to define one of the most popular musical genres in the world.