Popularly known as ‘Lambi hek di malika’, Gurmeet Bawa was a recipient of various awards, including Sangeet Puraskar, Devi Ahilya Award and Shiromani Gayika Award
Renowned Punjabi folk singer Gurmeet Bawa, popularly known as ‘Lambi hek di malika’ (the queen of singing in an extended breath), passed away on Sunday.
Bawa, who lived with her family in Amritsar, was admitted to a hospital on Saturday evening after she fell sick, her family members said.
She was 77.
Bawa was not keeping well after the death of her daughter Lachi Bawa, also a Punjabi folk singer, due to cancer in February last year, it is learnt. She was known for her long ‘hek’ (singing in single breath) that she could hold for record 45 seconds.
She was one of the artistes known for singing ‘Jugni’ after Alam Lohar and was the first Punjabi female singer to sing on Doordarshan.
Bawa was born in 1944 to Uttam Singh and Ram Kaur at Kothe village in Gurdaspur district. Her mother died when she was just two. At that time, girls were not allowed to study or go out without the elders’ permission. But Bawa, who aspired to be a teacher, passed JBT test and became the first woman from her area to be a teacher.
She was married to Kirpal Bawa, a Punjabi folk singer from Dera Baba Nanak, and the couple had three daughters, of whom Lachi and Galori Bawa became singers.
Her famous songs are ‘Liade chamba, lavan ghare de kol’, ‘Kaharo doli na chayao…. mera babal aya ni’ among others. ‘Ghorian’ (Punjab songs sung on a man’s wedding) and ‘Mirza’ (a song portraying saga of Mirza-Sahiba), sung by her, also became popular.
Bawa was conferred with 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.
She was also awarded the ‘Rashtrapati Puraskar’ by the Bharti Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Noted Punjabi writer and poet Gurbhajan Gill, who was close to the Bawa family, said, “She taught in a school near our village Aliwal. She was known in my area as a radio singer at the time. No singer could compete her in holding her breath for so long. She was among few singers who kept Punjabi folk music alive.”
Folklore Research Academy president Ramesh Yadav said, “She sang on the tune of ‘alghoza’, a paired woodwind instrument used by folk musicians in Punjab and surrounding areas apart from other traditional instruments.”
Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit and chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi condoled the singer’s death. Channi tweeted, “Shocked and saddened to hear the news of Gurmeet Bawa Ji’s demise. Her contribution to Punjabi folk music is indelible (sic).”