New Delhi: Ghazal queen Farida Khanum, who mesmerized the audience at an overflowing theatre with a two-hour concert, paid homage to 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, who came to perform in India from Pakistan after over two years, said.
Khanum said her green and orange silk sari was gifted to her by Lata Mangeshkar as well as the diamond locket she wore.Both, she said, were symbols of the great affection that the India`s melody queen, and the people of India, had for her. She said her daughter commented that the colour of the sari doesnt suit her, but she said all that didnt`t matter because "Lata has gifted it to me, I want to wear it."
The 75-year-old ghazal exponent, awarded the highest civil honours by Pakistan, sang at the Aravalli Concert hosted by the Indian Council For Cultural Relations and the NGO Roots 2 Roots at the FICCI Auditorium.
Saying "nothing had changed since I was here the last time", Khanum, who reminisced right through her performance, said: "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.
"The two countries share so much in their musical legacies that it could bridge any divide," Khanum told the media at the end of the concert during which she was greeted with repeated applause for her spontaneous expressions of love and brotherhood between the two nations.
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 Kolkata (where she was born) and Amritsa 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 cranies 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".
Khanum, who has been bestowed the title of Mallika-e-Arjun, said: "I love 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 AR 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 signature track, "Aaj jaane ki zid na karo" for which she got prolonged applause after it ended.
People who could not get a chance to sit stood on the aisles or simply sat on the carpeted floor in the auditorium that was thronged by the leading lights of the capital and included Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik and his wife.
The Khanum concert was preceded by openings songs by Indian ghazal exponent Anita Singhvi.