“There’s no substitute to hard work. Mehnat ke ilava koi bhi shortcut nahin kaam aata(nothing succeeds except hard work),” says Asia’s most accomplished singer Lata Mangeshkar when I ask her to share her mantra for success.
“Who am I to give advice to anyone?” she demurs initially. “Har ek ki ladai apni ladai hoti hai(each one has her his own struggle). What worked for me may not work for others.”
So what worked for the Goddess Of Melody? “My struggle was not for me. It was for my family. I was very young , only 13 when my father passed away. As the eldest child the responsibility of looking after my siblings, my three sisters and a brother, fell on me. Since singing was all I knew I set out to recording studios all over Mumbai in my cotton saree and chappals , travelling from one end of the city to the other by train, often on an empty stomach. Kind composers like Naushad saab and Sajjad Hussain Saab would offer me lunch…”
Struggle Lataji, feels to be an integral part of an artiste life. “If you haven’t suffered how can you sing about pain? Today’s generations have it relatively easy. Songs are recorded on computers. In our times the live recordings had as many 100 orchestra members playing instruments live. When we sang duets Rafi Saab and I, Kishoreda and and I were together sharing the mike. Nowadays a duet is recorded from two continents. The emotions are missing.”
Lataji is strongly against the re-mix culture. “Imitating Rafi Saab, Kishore Da, Asha or me is okay to begin with. But you have to find your own voice as soon as possible.This is why cover versions of old classics are inadvisable. An imitation is an imitation. It cannot take you anywhere worth going to. Find your own voice. Learn Indian classical music,know the ragas, and practice…Do riyaaz every single day. I unfortunately became so busy that I neglected my riyaaz. It is the one regret I have as a singer. I wish I had made time for my riyaaz every day. My advice to young singers is, treat your voice as a temple.”