4 June, 2023


‘Ode To A Nightingale’ – Lata Mangeskar, A Global Treasure That Transcended All Boundaries

By Vishwamithra

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird, No hungry generation tread thee down” ~John Keats

John Keats, the ultimate poet of the ‘Romanticism Movement era, in Ode to a Nightingale as far back as 1819 Spring, pays his extraordinary homage to the bird. There have been a surfeit of tributes and compliments to the greatness of Keats, especially after his passing away at the tender age of twenty five but Ode to a Nightingale stands out as one of his best ten works of poetry. Generations after the passing away of Keats, critics as well as very ordinary men and women seek poetic solace in the immortal words that cascaded from his pen.

Such extraordinary talent is rare and unique. A handful of literary giants have roamed our globe and left their lasting impressions among the ordinary folks. So was Lata Mangeskar’s unparalleled talent and vocal and musical skills. She passed away on February 6, 2022.

From amongst many musical prodigies such as Mohamed Rafi, Mukhesh, Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeskar stands alone and stands aloft as the genius of songster, who enraptured millions of music lovers all over the world. Lata’s passing away, along with those enchanting memories of her vocal impressions has certainly brought trillions of drops of tears to trillions of yearning eyes.

Among her most memorable popular songs are AAyega Anewala of Mahal, music by Khemchand Prakash, Aajare Pardesi of Madhumati, music by Salil Chowdhury, Chup Gaya Koire of Champakali, music by Hemant Kumar, Ek Pyar ka nagama hai of Shor, music by Laxmikant Payaralal, all songs of Barsaat, music by Shankar Jaikishan, Thum Na Jane of Sazaa, music by S D Burman, Bachpan ke Mohabbat ko of Baiju Bawra and Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya of Mughal-e-Azam, music by Naushad and Yun Hasarath Ke Dagh of Adaalat, music by Madan Mohan are but a few of vocal gems that echo in the deep valleys of Hindi music.

I am not of Indian origin, nor can I understand the Hindi language. But the music has its own way of communicating most complex human experiences and delicate human sensitivities. I am indeed touched firstly by the delightful voice cords of Lata Mangeskar and then by the uniquely musical melodies she in her own unique way endeavored to pass along to the listeners.

In the musical rainbow of melodies and pure vocal rendering, Lata often dwelled in the in the shades of ultra-violet and infra-red fringes rather than amongst the conventional VIBGYOR colors. Those who were enthralled by her artistic talents and skills might not have had the same training to analyze and dissect the inscrutable artistic values of classical music, yet with the assimilation of joy and the consequent calm and peace of mind that materialized later, they would not have to care where that joy and pleasure originated from so long as the resultant effect was blissful, especially after a long hard day’s work.

As stated earlier, being neither an Indian nor a one who understands the Hindi language, the melodious pleasure that Lata Mangeskar generated would not have escaped my yearning for musical pleasure and a profound understanding of the arts that surpass all boundaries, ethnic, language, religious or otherwise. The universal appeal that Lata spawned through her matchless voice was more than ample not only to pay my respect to one of the greatest artists who lived in our time, but also pen these unpretentious words as these are the only tools within my humble armory that I could put to good use.

A friend of mine once told me that the Famous Royal Albert Hall in London had once ranked all the voices that advanced their presence before sophisticated audiences through the times it has been conducting such musical evenings and it was Lata Mangeskar’s voice that was adjudged as closest to perfection that there ever was. None else, but Lata Mangeskar.

India is a great land indeed. The land where Siddhartha Gautama was born, preached and died, it’s the land of the greatest literary character of history, Rabindranath Tagore, the land which Satyajit Ray, Ravi Shankar, Bimal Roy and Dilip Kumar enriched with their unmatchable artistic genius. India is the land upon which such greats such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu walked for long and onerous years before they departed from life. Their collective influence on human development and cultural enhancement cannot be overstated nor could they be discarded as just another part of a greater movement in history. Their collective simplicity, which is intrinsically fundamental to India, overshadowed typical flamboyancy which is a hallmark of western cultural and political drama.

Tempered with incalculable discipline of the mind and enriched and inspired by infinite love for their fellow beings, these men and women of India would not fade away into history like ‘among those who spent their minuscule time on earth’, but would be etched in the memories of generations to come. Lata Mangeskar shall have her place and time along with these greats, for her contributions to the mundane and ordinary men and women, not only of India but those all over the world, who are humble enough to seek at least temporary solace in listening to a haunting voice that brings forth calm and peace to a troubled and tormented being.

Lata Mangeskar’s place amongst the greats of India is beyond debate; her poetic voice will continue to haunt many a discriminating listener whether he or she lives in India or anywhere else; her simplicity in approach to fundamental human principles of life and art will not ever come to a halt for generations to dawn.

It is said that when Lata sang the famous ‘ae mere watan ke logo’ full song at the first time live on Republic Day 26th January 1963, it brought tears to Jawaharlal Nehru’s eyes. The enchanting melody composed by Chitralkar Ramachandra (famously known as C Ramachandra) and inspiring lyrics of Kavi Pradeep will be cherished by millions of Indians living even beyond the shores of India. Such gut-wrenching lyrics, such melodious music and tune and above all else such mesmerizing voice of Lata, it is a convergence of all of India’s artistic talents and original creativity that would linger in our hearts and minds for eternity. And that is only one song sung by Lata.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”, so said Rabindranath Tagore. Lata Mangeskar was such a cloud that brings color to our lives.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 0

    The Sinhalese song she sang was haunting and ethereal.

    Hindi as a language and when sung, becomes a nasal screech with women’s voices…..GaeAaeAaeAae…..gucha gucha gucha….apparae….haeaeaeae….Gosh!

    Sinhalese, being between Tamil and Hindi evolves the S.Asian tones and is so refined.

  • 3

    Dear Vishwa
    Yes, lataji was an icon and her demise is a great loss to the music world. But her legacy will live on. She sang in 39 different languages; we are told
    Yes Keats was a great poet along with Milton.
    Milton’s ” Paradise lost” is a masterpiece of literature. I love his sonnets

    We were fotunate to visit Lataji’s native place and temple named after the family in Goa in 2002
    Her melodious voicec are loved by most and in Africa they love the Indian cinema and its songs.
    The world of music is poorer by her death
    Let her immortal soul reach mocha


  • 2

    Musically written ode to a Nightingale!

    Yes, indeed, what Rabindranath Tagore was to poetry and, Ravi Shankar was to classical music, Latha was to popular music. Sadly coming to the end of an era of true greats.

  • 1

    The magical song ‘Lag Ja Gale’ is one of my favourites by Lata Mangeshkar. On the face of it the song might appear simple but it has many subtle nuances as explained here:

    And here is the actual song from the movie:

    Her songs were, undoubtedly, an epitome of joy!

  • 0

    If someone asked me who was the greatest living person two weeks ago I would have answered Lata Mangeshkar without hesitation.
    I know of no other person who has enthralled so many hearts so many times so long.
    Every night I go to sleep with headphones listening to her songs in black-and-white era.
    I do not know a single Hindi word. Her voice is a musical instrument.


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