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Tuesday, August 28, 2001

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Sufi singer with a mission

Did you hear that deep-throated voice in sync with Kajol's melodramatic song ``Tujhe yaad na meri aayi...''? No, this isn't about Alka Yagnik but Manpreet Akhtar -- the second voice in this song sequence, and a Sufiana singer -- who is an ardent fan of Baba Bulley Shah, a famous Sufi saint-poet.

It was a treat for all those who love Sufi music when Manpreet performed Sufiana and folk music this past week at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Bringing her enthralling voice to the Capital was ``Impressario Asia'' which is committed to preserving the rich heritage of folk music in India and which had earlier brought artistes like Wadali Brothers and Pushpa Hans to the notice of many.

Influenced by veteran melody queens like Noorjahan, Reshma, and Runa Laila, Manpreet started singing at an early age by hearing them over the radio and imitating their voices. ``These melodies were not only registered in my ears, but deep down in my heart, I needed to listen to a song but once, and the song remained in my mind since then,'' she says.

For her, the ``swar'' came as a gift from God. She does not have to struggle much to train her voice. Besides doing a masters degree in music, she was trained under her guru Pandit Krishna Kant Sharma who hails from the Patiala Gharana and who always wanted Manpreet to sing like Parveen Sultana.

This ``shishya'' has now certainly made her ``guru'' proud, presently she is a music lecturer in Sangroor, has sung for Punjabi films and won the mega-finals in ``Meri Aawaz Suno'', a popular music show on DD. In fact it was here that Jatin-Lalit decided to sign her for ``Kuch Kuch Hota Hai''.

Ask her why she chose Sufi singing and she answers promptly : ``Not only because it is hereditary, since my father and brother were Sufi singers, but through such songs I can have a direct union with the Almighty. Sufiana Qalaam is pure, it brings out my eternal search for God, and I feel passionate when I sing in His praise''. In fact, she insists that her husband Sanjeev also prompted her a lot in the Sufi choice of music.

The future seems bright for Manpreet who plans to shift to Mumbai and establish herself in playback singing. But she isn't rigid about just Sufi music. She is ready to mould herself with time and doesn't mind trying out pop, light classical and ghazals too. Her ultimate desire is to be remembered as a name among the names -- as Manpreet Akhtar and not just as any other singer who come and go with time. Is that what we call Sufi in a jiffy?

By Our Staff Reporter

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