JOHANNESBURG: From her evergreen numbers to anecdotes from her illustrious career, Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle's stage debut in South Africa, over the weekend, was an affair to remember for her fans.
The 83-year-old singer said it was her dream to perform in South Africa and she felt blessed that it got fulfilled around Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).
"It was the birthday of Gandhiji, who meant so much to both South Africa and India, the Navratri festival is upon us, and today is also the beginning of Muharram, the Muslim new year.
"What better blessings could I have asked for for my first tour to South Africa that I have wanted to do for the past 26 years?" Bhonsle told more than 3,000 fans who flew in from all over the country and African states to her performance here on Sunday night.
A day before, Bhosle had performed to a packed house in Durban, home to more than half of the country's 1.4 million Indian-origin citizens.
Bhosle was joined in the show by rising singer Javed Ali.
"I have wanted to come here for so many years, hearing about this wonderful country and seeing photographs, but it was not God'swill.
"Now, his blessings and yours have brought me here," Bhonsle said to thundering applause and a standing ovation, even before singing a single line.
Crooning a wide range from the thousands of songs she has recorded in her career, Bhosle also regaled the audience with interesting snippets about her life and the inspirations behind some of those songs.
For promoter Rakesh Maharaj, Bhosle's tour was the fulfilment of a dream, which started when he brought out the first major Bollywood show to South Africa in 1984.
"Since then, I have done so many other shows and assisted with so many Bollywood productions, but there was still always the dream of bringing out the last singing legend from the great group of Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar (Bhosle's elder sister who has toured South Africa) and Asha Bhosle," Maharaj told PTI.
After initial discussions that time, the plan for a tour
by Bhosle was never pursued further until a chance meeting at the home of a relative of Maharaj in Australia revived the discussion with her management, which was planning Bhosle's farewell world tour.
This led to the inclusion of South Africa on the singer's final programme.
Ecstatic fans, young and old, expressed their excitement at being entertained by Bhosle. "We love her songs when they are played in the clubs we go to. There is nothing to beat them," said Atish Desai.
"My wife Ranjeeta and I flew down from Nigeria this week because we don't think we will ever get an opportunity to hear this living legend again on African soil," said Sunil Shrivastava.
"I have been privileged in my lifetime to have heard Kishoredha, Rafisaheb and Lataji in South Africa and now I have also heard the last legend in that group. What a privilege and experience!" said Sataar Mohamed of Johannesburg.