India-born singer Reshma, famous for her folk songs and her powerful ringing voice, died in Lahore on Sunday morning, according to media reports. She was suffering from throat cancer and was in a coma for a month.

Reshma often modestly said her voice was a gift from God and she was grateful for all the recognition she got. She sang for the first time at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, Sindh.

She was born around 1947 in Bikaner in Rajasthan in a nomadic Banjara community and her family moved to Karachi after the Partition. She has sung for both Pakistan and Indian film industries and performed in India too.

Her family didn’t think much of her talent, but at the age of 12 she recorded the song Laal Meri on Pakistan Radio and hasn’t looked back since. She will be remembered for her famous rendition of Badi Lambi Judai which she ranked among her favourite songs and many other compositions to which she added a unique touch.

Her fans will remember her for Dama Dam Mast Kalandar, Wey mein chori chori, Ankhiyan nu rehan de and Lambi Judai.

Honoured with awards

She was awarded the ‘Sitara-i-Imtiaz’ and ‘Legends of Pakistan’ by the President. In her mid sixties, she is survived by two children. Reshma was discovered by Saleem Gilani, then a producer with Radio Pakistan who went on to head it as director general. He heard her when she sang at the shrine in Sehwan and called her for a recording to Karachi, says journalist Murtaza Solangi. After that recording she and her family ran away and were later traced and asked to come back.

That was the beginning of Reshma’s long singing career. During his tenure with Radio Pakistan, Mr. Solangi launched a series of programmes at different radio stations to pay tribute to living legends and one of them was Reshma.

Mr. Solangi said, “How could I forget Reshma? In my youthful years her voice always enriched me and she connected Rajasthan, Cholistan and Sindh. She was the voice of love and peace. Last year in March, we had an event to pay tribute to her musical journey and contribution. Her contemporaries and young artists assembled to pay tribute to her. She couldn't resist. I will sing too, she said. And there she was on the stage in unbelievable command, giving instructions to musicians and people on the percussion.”

Mr. Solangi said when she started singing, she made many eyes misty. “When I put a woollen shawl from Sindh on her shoulders, she had an amazing smile. It smells of home, she told me. She is not with us, but her voice will always be with us. I will always remember Reshma, the flower of desert, symbol of love, music and peace.”

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