‘I faced difficulties, but today when I look back, it all looks mazedar (fun).’
Music, like an ever flowing river, never ends, says Asha Bhosle.
As she turns 90 on Friday, September 8, India’s singer for all times and ages could well be describing her own career that started an incredible eight decades ago.
“At the age of 90, I have to stand for three hours on stage and sing songs. I’m happy I can do this at this age,” Bhosle says, referring to her live concert in Dubai to celebrate her landmark birthday.
She sang her first film song Chala Chala Nav Bala for the Marathi film Majha Bal in 1943.
Eighty years and some 12,000 songs later, Ashaji is readying to hold the stage again, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Music, she said simply, is like breathing.
It wasn’t always easy, admits the singer.
“Humari saans nahin hoti hai toh aadmi mar jata hai. Mere liye music meri saans hai (For me, music is my breath). I have spent my life with this thought. I have given a lot to music. I feel good I’ve come out of difficult times. Many times I felt I would not be able to survive, but I did,” Bhosle said.
From peppy numbers such as Piya Tu Ab To Aaja and O Haseena Zulfon Walito soulful ghazals like Dil Cheez Kya Hai and the classical Tora Man Darpan Kehlaye, Ashaji has been the voice millions of Indians have tuned into day and night.
Versatile could well be her middle name.
Ever ready to experiment, her music has found popularity with international bands too. The Black Eyed Peas used the music of some of her songs. She also collaborated with Boy George and Stephen Lauscombe as well as with Australian cricketer Brett Lee.
In 2020, she marked her YouTube debut with the single Main Hoon, dedicated to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
“Music kabhi khatam nahin hota. Ye dariya hai (Music never ends, it’s like a river). If anyone says, ‘I feel complete’, then this is wrong to say because no one is complete. It is always about how you can change or evolve with time,” she said.
“I’ve sung songs for the main artist and for the dancers as well. I believe I could fit in well with anyone. But I wish I had sung more songs in different languages. I wish I could have done more classical singing,” Ashaji added.
Looking back at her vast body of work, the legendary singer said navigating the ups and downs in the highly competitive music industry hasn’t been easy but she feels glad to have overcome the difficult times.
“In every field, there’s politics. In films too, there’s politics, so it is not easy. I believe a lot in destiny and I believe whatever is meant for me will come to me and what is not meant for me, I’ll never get that. I faced difficulties, but today when I look back, it all looks mazedar (fun) as I came out of it,” she said.
ASHA@90: Live In Concert is special, she feels.
“It is like a Broadway show. There are many dancers, musicians and technicians. The stage is going to be big. I’ve never done a show on such a big level. It is a special show,” she said.
“I didn’t plan to celebrate the birthday this way. My son and family members wanted it to be celebrated this way,” she added.
This show comes almost five decades after Bhosle’s first international show in 1976 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, which was attended by the likes of Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan.
In Dubai, she will be reprising some of her popular songs and will also pay homage to India’s legendary singers and musicians.
“The songs will play out according to my journey, like the classical songs, the film songs I did, and how I changed my style, the songs that I sang with other legendary singers and musicians. In a way, we are paying tribute to all the legends who have left us,” she said.
Her son Anand Bhosle along with PME entertainment, a global event management company, is developing the ASHA@90: Live In Concert.
Performing on the stage still makes her nervous.
“I do rehearsals before the concert. Since this time we have chosen some different kinds of songs, something which I’ve never sung, so for those songs, we are working hard, doing more rehearsals.
“Before going on stage, I’m very nervous. I also yawn a lot. I feel like I should just run away somewhere. But then I remember God and my parents, and then the moment I’m on stage, I forget everything just by looking at the love of the audience,” she said.
Bhosle recently said she is the last Mughal in the music industry. Asked to explain, she said she was referring to the outstanding work of singers and musicians of her era.
“Some of the old songs are still a hit. For instance, Dum Maro Dum is more than 50 years song but is still widely loved. It feels good when people love our songs, out of India and within. It is because some of the old songs were very well written, well composed and well sung,” she said.
“All the singers would sing so well, be it Mohammed Rafisaab, Kishore Kumar, Mukeshji, and others. Abhi, sab khali ho gaya hai (Today, it feels empty),” she said.
Ashaji had discussed the possibility of a performance under the name, The Last Mughal with her elder sister, the late Lata Mangeshkar.
“I said that because Didi had said we both sisters will do a show and call it ‘Last Mughal‘. That played in my head, hence this came out. I didn’t mean I’m a maharani or that I’m great. What I meant is I know the industry closely for many years.”
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