`I was inspired by Lata Mangeshkar`

New Delhi: Pakistan-based ghazal exponent Farida Khanum, who mesmerized the audience at a packed theatre with a two-hour concert, paid homage to Bollywood playback queen Lata Mangeshkar saying "the Indian nightingale was one of the music legends who had inspired her among several big names".

"I have performed with the doyennes of Indian music and learnt from them. Lata ji was one of them. She was so affectionate," Khanum said.

The 75-year-old ghazal exponent, who returned to India after two years to perform Tuesday night at the Aravalli Concert hosted by the Indian Council For Cultural Relations and the NGO Roots 2 Roots, said: "nothing had changed since she was here the last time".

"There is so much love across the border. You wanted to hear me sing, waited for me and I came here. The spontaneous goodwill was overwhelming. I have been showered with so much love from this country that I would not mind staying here if I am invited," Khanum told the media at the end of the concert at FICCI Auditorium.

"The two countries share so much in their musical legacies that it could bridge any divide," Khanum said.

When asked if the "rule of terror was detrimental to cultural exchange across the border," the musician said: "pareshani hoti hai (we confront problems). Musicians from Pakistan look forward to performing in India because the audience here is so discerning and warm. Wherever you perform within the country, people respect you. Performers cut across the border and we -the cultural community- on either side of the divide - are the same. We swear by similar ideals. But performing in India is so much more gratifying," the singer said.

She, however, said a new generation of younger musicians like Ali Zafar were "carrying the legacy of music forward".

Recalling her days in Amritsar and Kolkata, where the musician "spent her early youth before migrating to Pakistan", she said "Amritsar was special".

"I moved in the city like a barefoot child - exploring its nooks and crannies without a care in the world. But Kolkata was different. I honed my skills and talent in Kolkata at the feet of great classical musicians. I performed with Mukhtar Begum in Kolkata before she moved to Mumbai. It was also around the same time I met Begum Akhtar and she treated me with love. The performers of yesteryears were not divided by feelings of one-upmanship. Begum Akhtar encouraged me to grow and move ahead. She was never jealous. That was the mood of our times," Khanum said of her "illustrious peer".

The musician, who shone in a green and orange silk saree and floral wreaths on her hair, said: "she loved Hindustani music."

"If you ask me to name one musician, I would say Amjad Ali Khan. I had heard him perform at the annual music festival in Kabul and it was wonderful," she said.

Khanum would like to work with Oscar-winning Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman. "I met him on a flight to the US and he said he would wait for the day when I could collaborate with him. Imagine, the kind of award he has been honoured with," she said.

Khanum rendered almost all her signature ghazals, including her famous track, "Aaj jaane ki zid na karo".



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