The nightingale of Punjabi folk singing Gurmeet Bawa left a huge void in the hearts of music lovers, as she breathed her last on Sunday at a hospital in Amritsar. She was 77. Known her long hek, which she could carry for 45 seconds, she was among the few singers who could do that. Bawa was given the State Award by the Punjab government in 1991, Sangeet Puraskar by the Punjab Natak Akademi, the national Devi Ahilya Award by the Madhya Pradesh government in 2002 and the Shiromani Gayika Award by the Punjabi Language Department in 2008.
Famous folk singer Pammi Bai, who had a long association with Bawa, says, “Our association was from 1986. We last met at her performance last year and she did seem weak.” He remembers her as a very encouraging person, “Even when I was singing as an amateur, she would give me chance to perform. Our boliyan from a live event during the 80s are still popular.” While most credit Bawa for her long hek, Bai mentions that her strength was to sing with just Punjabi folk instruments in the background. “Not just Punjabi gayaki, she popularised folk instruments like algoze, dhol and chimta.”
“With her passing away, an era comes to an end in Punjabi gayki. Her hek, which she could take for about 45-46 seconds, would live forever though. It’s an irreparable loss to Punjabi culture. Just like people remember Surinder Kaur, Bindrakhia and Sardool Sikander. No one can sing like her,” says singer Hardeep Singh.
Singer Jyotica Tangri recalls Gurmeet Bawa as a legendary artist. “She has created history with her distinct way of singing, the industry will miss the powerful singing of Gurmeet ji. Whenever we talk about Punjabi folk music, Jugni by Gurmeet Bawa ji is always highly talked of. I always used to sing Jugni in music competitions, her hek can never be forgotten. My guruji used to tell me —‘Gurmeet Bawa ji ki tarah hek lagana seekh,” says Tangri.
Shankar Sahney says Bawa’s demise is a huge loss for not only for her admirers, but also the Punjabi music industry. She has her own style and I happened to play music with her when I was a teenager. She contributed to folk style and took it to great heights. She had a huge fan following when she was at the peak of her career and she inspired many upcoming singers with her distinct style. She was a legend in true words.”
Composer-lyricist Santokh Singh calls Bawa’s Mirza and Jugni as songs that will last forever. “Her voice was soulful and would live on forever.”
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