The legend talks about her favourite singers.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf listens in.*
All the names I am talking about have God-gifted voices. They are a class in themselves and nobody can touch or imitate them. I feel such singers are rare.
There is a gap between the heart and brain -- that is where the soundbox lies. Some sing from their heart, others use their brain.
But all the singers in my list apply both their heart and brain. That is the reason I consider them great singers.
I strongly feel that the government must preserve their songs and set an example for the coming generations.
Master Dinanath Mangeshkar
He is my father, so it is very difficult for me to say why I like his songs. But people say I look like my father and sing like him.
His lifestyle and will power were very unique.
He left his home at the age of eight and learned singing.
Later he formed his own drama company and had 200 people working in it.
Then he went into films.
My songs would be nothing had it not been for my father. I follow his footsteps.
He used to say that anyone who knew the Sanskrit language would not find it difficult to sing songs in any language.
I have been listening to her songs since my childhood. Very few singers have the range that her voice has.
She has been singing for the last 55 years.
Her voice is sweet; her pronunciation, excellent.
Make her sing any song in any language -- Tamil, Bengali or any other -- she can sing brilliantly. She has perfect tuning.
And, whenever she sings, you will feel as if someone is singing in a temple.
Allah Tero Naam by her is my favourite.
He had come from Lahore, Punjab.
His greatest ability was that he could sing at a high pitch and shift to a low pitch immediately. He could manage that very well.
One of his songs that I love is Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki.
I first saw him when the song Upar Gagan Vishal, Niche Gehra Patal was being recorded in Bombay Talkies. He was then an assistant to S D Burman.
The song was written by the great poet, Pradeepji.
I had gone there with Didi (Lata Mangeshkar). At that time, I didn't sing.
He was a Bengali and his Hindi was not very good, but his command over his voice was brilliant.
There was nobody like him when it came to classical songs.
I think there is hardly anyone in the Hindi film industry who can sing classical songs as well as Manna Dey did.
He used to tell me: 'Ashatai, you have never got an opportunity to sing the appropriate songs. If time permits, I will surely make you sing classical songs.'
Unfortunately, that never happened.
I must also say he gave me an opportunity to sing Bengali songs. He wanted me to sing more classical songs.
I met him in 1948 at Bombay Talkies.
He gave 125 per cent to any song.
His remarkable quality was that he gave music directors ideas that could be incorporated in his songs.
He would say: "Guruji, main yeh karoon, woh karoon? Main yodeling karoon (Should I sing like this or like that? Should I yodel?)"
He used to eat only paan in the morning and practise yodeling after that. And he had all kinds of music records in his home.
His only hobby was music. I never saw him at any parties or gatherings.
He was very whimsical and one always had to see his mood before talking to him.
He didn't know classical songs but still sang them beautifully.
Nakhrewali is one of my favourite songs.
I used to like Mukeshji very much because his Hindi was excellent.
It was very clear and his pronunciation was excellent. No one could match that.
We are Maharashtrians and I think my Hindi has improved because of him.
His voice had a speciality.
He never imitated anyone, he was an original.
Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din from Mera Naam Joker is one of his classics.
Ram Kare Aisa Ho Jaye is also worth remembering.
I had first heard Hemantda in 1944.After hearing that song, I became a great fan of his.
Unfortunately, we did not have tape recorders and CDs in those days. We only had the radio. And Hemantda used to sing on Bengal Radio.
Aanchal Se Kyon Baandh Liya Mujh Pardesi Ka Pyaar is one of my favourite songs.
After I got married, I kept my son's name Hemant because I loved Hemantda's voice so much.
Later, I also worked with him and the greatness of his voice is that after hearing his songs don't feel like hearing other songs.
His voice was like a deep ocean.
Interestingly, his Hindi too was not very good because he was also a Bengali like Manna Dey.
I am one of the greatest fans of Hemant Kumar.
His songs Yeh Nayan Dare Dare, Pukar Lo from Khamoshi are wonderful. No one has that kind of cultured voice.
Badnam Mohabat Kaun Kare Badnam is my favourite song by Noor Jehan.
I had seen her in early childhood when Badi Maa was made. I have also played a role in that film.
I call her Aapa.
She sings beautifully. She was one of the greatest female playback singers at the time of K L Saigalsaab.
He is God's miracle.
I feel all those singers who have come from Marwar are really very good. He is one of them.
His sur and lai is brilliant.
If an impatient man listens to his songs, he will calm down. That's his greatness.
He too is a miracle.
Unke gane mein jo tadap hai, woh kisi mein aa nahin sakti. Woh gaane mein kahan hai aur kahan jaenge kuch kah nahin sakte... (No one can replace the emotion in his voice. No one can predict where he will take a song).
A man will stand on his toes after he listens to his songs.
Mehdi Hasan's songs can instil peace whereas a person will run to listen to Ghulam Ali.
*This feature was first published in 2000.