While growing up, Mehmeet Syed found her mother’s support behind the innate musical talent that she had. Years later, as she was living her dream, she lost the maternal support, but pulling through the dark phase, she found her moment and fulfilled her mother’s dream by becoming Kashmir’s global voice.
Toys did not attract her, but the echo of her mother’s harmonium touched her soul. While humming a song in her Kindergarten, she eventually realized that singing was an innate gift that she had.
Inspired by her music-graduate mother, the strings of melody in her house amplified her urge to pursue music as a career. However, there were glaring trials and difficulties latched with the pursuit. From being a textbook struggler, Mehmeet Syed overcame it all, and emerged as a ‘singing sensation’.
Turning nostalgic, without airing a halo, which otherwise is a hallmark of famous artists, she recounts her musical journey inside a calm cafe in Srinagar’s Raj Bagh.
The pathway leading to her success was drawn out by her mother who was devoted towards making her daughter a singer.
“My mother used to sing really well but couldn’t pursue it as her career,” Mehmeet says, sounding chirpy and lively. “She helped me in moving ahead and taught me the basics. She is my first Guru!”
Her dedication as a child made her spend hours rehearsing symphonies with her mother, until they got perfect.
The fame came early, as her friend recalls, when she first performed at the age of six, in her school. “One day in school when a teacher asked if anyone could sing, Mehmeet raised her hand,” says Mansha Beigh, Mehmeet’s best friend. “Since then everyone in the class used to look forward for a free class, so that we could hear her sing.” This encouraged her to take formal music lessons.
Her professional career began when she sang for an album, Cholhama Roshay Roshay. It clicked with the masses and became an instant hit. “I was outside the state when I got a call from home, telling me that everyone loved my voice,” she says, with a glimmer in her eyes. “That was it. I became a star overnight. My mother was over the moon. After all, her hard work had paid off.”
Then, Kashmir was bereft of a well-defined music industry. Many budding musicians were calling it quits. But Mehmeet decided to go against the wind.
“But it was never easy,” she continues chronicling her artistic journey. “I faced problems and disapprovals, but I always took it positively and strived for perfection.”
As a struggler, she made it a point to promote the Kashmiri essence, and created a cult following.
“It would make me feel privileged when I noticed that people have my songs as caller tunes on their phones,” she smiles. “It keeps me going.”
As she got her first paid break in Pune, where she sang a Bollywood and Kashmiri remix song during a show and received a rousing reception.
But soon, life took a gloomy twist when her mother became terminally ill, forcing her to stop performing for the next four years. At the end of that terrible phase, she had lost her biggest supporter, her mother.
“I was left lifeless,” she wells up. “I couldn’t rehearse properly, I deviated, and didn’t even attend my college regularly. She was the world to me and when she left, there was a hole inside of me. It wouldn’t fill.”
Inside a café where she struggles between her loss and longing, Mehmeet next recalls the call which came during her tormenting stage, and proved her rebirth as an artist.
The caller had an offer for her: to perform in America.
“And that was the time,” she recalls, “when I made a promise to myself, to begin with all power, and to make my mother’s dream come true.”
She went to America and performed in seven cities there. It changed her mindset and proved to be her comeback.
“I chose Mehmeet for that musical tour because I wanted someone versatile enough to represent Kashmiri culture and language in the United States,” says Shafat Qazi, the man who channelized the singer’s aptitude throughout the world. “When I heard her sing for the first time, I got goosebumps. I felt she’s a serious talent, who could be the brand ambassador of our culture at a global level.”
If Qazi proved to be her ‘comeback charm’, then her father tried to fill her mother’s void.
“I remember the time when she was in her 12th standard,” says Dr. Syed, her father, “when he got selected for dentistry. Without giving a second thought I asked her to chase her dream and not deviate from her path. When I think about it now, it makes me feel so happy that I took the right decision for her.” People knew him by the designation Dr Syed, a politician. “And now,” he says, “they know me as Mehmeet Syed’s father.”
Mehmeet isn’t unmindful of the fact that talent without support and platform is nothing. Blessed with both, the singer says that she makes it a point to stay upbeat about her profession. The positive outlook, she says, hasn’t only shaped her worldview, but also won her a series of awards. She recently received the State Award for her ‘persistent work and melodic songs’.
“When your work is appreciated, it inspires you to do better, to be more fair with your work,” she says, with a sense of humility.
Although she cherishes her music and songs as a gift, her favourite remains Baeil Gravan Thaavakh Na kann’taiy Vann’taiy Lo, Kaeil Yaawun Chhuiy Raavan’taiy Vann’taiy Lo.
The song, she says, brings tranquillity to her soul.
“There’s soul in her singing and it was quite evident from the start,” her brother, Muheet Syed, comments on his sibling’s singing acumen. “Even her humming had an inbuilt melody.”
But lately, in the newfound hype, following her performances across the world with her band, IBM (Irfan, Bilal and Mehmeet), many seem to be oblivious of the singer’s sensational debut back in mid-2000s and her textbook toil. As part of the band now, she tours around the world and sings together with her childhood colleagues—Irfan and Bilal.
“As children,” she says, “the three of us used to attend recordings together. We share a good professional bonding.”
As a singer, when she has already created a name for herself, Mehmeet now wants to launch an album in the memory of her mother.
“One of its songs is Maenzi Aath’e,” she says. “This album somewhat portrays my relationship with my mother, the bond we shared. It’s about a daughter who is getting married and is waiting for her mother’s blessings.”
While singing a few lines from the album, she apparently passes into the world where she seems to communicate with her mother. Singing, it appears, has remained the only surviving link between the two.
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