Indian singing legend Shamshad Begum, one the first “playback” singers in Bollywood whose iconic voice was in many of the industry’s films for 40 years, died Tuesday, her family has confirmed. She was 94. Begum was born into a traditional Punjabi family, who frowned upon her grand ambitions at first. When she won a recording contract, her father would only let her sing under the condition that she sing with a burka and not allow herself to be photographed. But Begum persisted in Bollywood and became one of the industry’s “playback” singers—prerecording the soundtrack for many of the films from the 1930s to 1970s while the young stars would lip-synch and dance on camera. Her fans swore that she could captivate an audience just by the sound of her voice.
The singer lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Mumbai after the death of her husband in 1995. Her daughter said Begum did not live the typical glitzy life of a Bollywood star. “My mother used to say that artists never die. She wanted to be remembered for her songs,” Usha Ratra told PTI.