25 November 1929
15 June 2006 (aged 76)
Surinder Kaur (November 25, 1929 – June 15, 2006) - One of the most popular Punjabi folk singers of the gramophone age, she was born to Sikh parents in Lahore, the capital of what was then the undivided state of Punjab.
Kaur and her sister Parkash had a rigorous classical musical training under Inayat Husainand Pandit Mani Parshad. No other popular contemporary Punjabi singer, except Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (also trained in classical music), mastered the nuances of the Indian musical scale to the same extent.
In August 1943, when she was 13, Kaur gave her first live performance on Lahore Radio, and the following year made her first record, along with her sister, for HMV. The duo soon became household names across the sectarian divide, and no Punjabi wedding was complete without their songs - played on hand-wound machines with mother and daughter as protagonists.
After the partition of India split the state of Punjab in 1947, Kaur moved to Delhi with her parents, and then to Bombay, the centre of the Hindi film industry, working as a film playback singer until 1952. She then returned to Delhi and married Joginder Singh Sodhi, a lecturer in Punjabi literature at Delhi University: "He was the one who made me a star," she recalled. "He chose all the lyrics I sang and we both collaborated on compositions." They both travelled to farflung villages in East Punjab for IPTA, the Indian People's Theatre Association, run by the Indian Communist party and spreading the message of worldwide peace.
Apart from folk songs, Surinder Kaur sang Muslim Sufi songs, Punjabi kafis and lyrics by contemporaries such as Nand Lal Noorpuri, Amrita Pritam , Mohan Singh and Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Her best duet partners were female: her sister, her daughter Dolly Guleria and granddaughter Sunaina - and in recognition of the success of this collaboration, in 1995 the album Surinder Kaur: the Three Generations was released.
By the time she died, Surinder Kaur had more than 2,000 recorded songs. Her husband predeceased her in 1975, but her three daughters survive her.
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