Kashmir’s celebrated Sufi singer, Ghulam Qadir Langoo, passed away Thursday night after battling an ill health from last few years. He was 100. A court singer for Maharaja Hari Singh, Langoo enthralled people of Kashmir with his voice and music. He belonged to the family who had a long association with the royal courts. His grandfather Shabaan Langoo was a Nakaal (entertainer) in Maharaja Pratap Singh’s court. In his last interview with Kashmir Life’s former correspondent, Shazia Yousuf, Langoo recalled that as a child, he would accompany his father Mohi-ud-din Langoo to Maharaja Hari Singh’s court where he would watch him play santoor. “Maharaja would get happy and flung a gold coin, that meant much those days,” he told KL in an interview on June 2010. Like his ancestors, Langoo’s stints in the court hardly brought him any riches. He lived a poor life and spent 60 years singing for the rulers, though he was a little better off than his relatives, who mostly were cobblers. “I sang for the kings, the kings kept changing. I was like an instrument that played for anyone who stroked its cords,” Langoo said. The deceased shared stage with Indian musical greats like Lata Mangeshkar, Aasha Bhonsle and Mahinder Kapoor, mostly playing Tanpura (musical instrument). His mastery over Tanpura put him into a different class. Many decades later, Bhakshi Ghulam Mohammad told him: “We can have our own radio station if you get many more singers for it.” Langoo worked day and night to gather the artists. Finally when Radio Kashmir was inaugurated, he sang for whole night in Polo Ground. As a singer at Radio Kashmir, he was once tasked to hire female singers for some contract. “Those days singing and performing arts was an affair of lower class people like my family. So I searched there,” he recalled. He eventually found and trained singers like Raj Begum, Zoon Begum and Naseem Akhtar. Later Langoo named his only daughter after Raj Begum, who by then was a household name. Apart from Hari Singh, Langoo sang for Sheikh Abdullah, Jawaharlal Nehru and others. In 1964, when Sheikh Abdullah was released from jail after 11 years, Langoo was taken to Pune by Sheikh’s fellow leaders where he sang his favourite song: Walo haa baagwaano and keam sana badlow soan takdeer, qaid-e-azam Sheri Kashmir… Langoo and his group were also invited by Jawahar Lal Nehru to his mansion. But among his hosts, Langoo enjoyed singing most for Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad. “Just a song of mine and he would forget who he was. He would join the choir and play some instrument mostly Noutt. I still remember how happy he would get.” Since his retirement from Radio Kashmir, some 35 years back, Langoo had been into seclusion.
2015 Kashmir Despatch