HYDERABAD/KARACHI: At musical gatherings, there is one request Muhammad Waseem has gotten quite used to receiving: being asked to sing in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar.
Waseem, who hails from Pakistan’s Sindh province and has acquired the alias of Waseem Lata for his ability to mimic the singing voice of the legendary Indian singer, told Arab News he was heartbroken he would not be able to fulfill his “utmost desire” to meet his mentor, who died on February 6 due to complications from COVID-19.
Mangeshkar, who passed away aged 92, was best known as a Bollywood playback singer and beloved around the world for her ability to tailor her voice and emotions to the actresses she voiced on screen.
40-year-old Waseem, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, first heard Mangeshkar’s songs as a young man and soon realized he could mimic her singing voice. At the time, he did not even know the name of the vocalist.
“It’s been around twenty years since I started singing Lata Ji’s songs and this has earned me the title of Lata,” Waseem told Arab News. “When I started [singing], people admired me saying my audio was just like Lata Ji’s audio, it is a copy of Lata. Only then I came to know for the first time that the audio which I had admired for years was of Lata Mangeshkar.”
Waseem, who has performed in cities across Pakistan and hopes to find a financier to record an album of original songs, recalled occasions at concerts when people demanded the sound system be shut down and the singer perform without a band to prove this was his real voice.
“Although a lot of people know me, even then at many concerts we needed to stop the playback music system because people were in doubt that I may only be lip synching Lata Ji’s songs,” the singer said. “After that I have to stop the music and perform without music so that people can be guaranteed that the voice belongs to me.”
Waseem knows around 60 Mangeshkar songs by heart and says he wants to triple that number so her songs can “last forever.”
Teenager Alishba Amir from the port city of Karachi has a similar hope: to keep Mangeshkar’s legacy alive.
Like Waseem, Amir too said it was a matter of pride to be praised for having a singing voice that resembled Mangeshkar’s.
“When people compliment me by saying that my voice resembles Lata’s, this gives me immense pleasure,” the 14-year-old told Arab News.
Although the ninth grader wishes to join Pakistan’s civil services, she also dreams of becoming a professional singer. Her father Amir Riaz, who has arranged a music teacher for his daughter, said he hoped she would follow in the footsteps of her late mentor.
“The great Lata is no more but I see another Lata in the future,” he said, “in the form of my daughter Alishba.”