By Dr. Vishnu Bisram
Guyanese nightingale, Melody Queen Seeta Panday has passed on in New York. She reportedly died of COVID-19 related issues on Sunday midday at New York Presbyterian hospital in Flushing. In her passing, Guyana and the Indo-Indo Caribbean diaspora have lost a gifted singer. The irony is not too long ago she sang virtual at several events to raise funds for victims of Covid as well as to entertain seniors and for Diwali, Navratri, and other religious festivals. The community was looking forward for her singing for Phagwah next month end.
Seeta was well known among Guyanese, Trinis, and Indian nationals as a legendary artiste. The news of her death was a great shock. The Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Caribbean communities are in grief as news of her death made the rounds. Many in the community expressed deep anguish over her passing. Eyes swollen with tears were observed. She was the talk at mandirs on Sunday. Sobs were heard. Earlier in the morning, there were reports she had died that were later corrected. They said an icon has fallen.
Community leaders expressed grief over her demise. She had done so much for the community. Tributes poured in from fans, community leaders, religious figures, friends, and Indian music lovers. Even little children knew Auntie Seeta, the singing sensation. Accolades follow. Friends say it is rally sad to hear about the passing away of such a great yet simple person, They refer to Seeta as a “Songbird”. “That girl could sing”, they said. Indeed, she had an unparalleled singing voice. ICD International President Ashook Ramsaran said she will be remembered for bringing her unique style of singing entertainment for people of the Caribbean, USA, UK, and Canada.
Seeta, as she was popularly called, is a product from Hampshire, Corentyne, and migrated to New York around 1980. She used to sing at public events throughout the Corentyne, especially at satsangs and mandirs.
Seeta held a special place in the heart of the Indian diaspora for her singing talent and her generosity in community events. She sang Bollywood, local Chatney, and devotional songs. She recorded several albums over the last thirty years. She also led several groups on tours to India.
She was a pillar of the singing fraternity. When she was hospitalized, there were prayers for recovery. Just a couple of weeks ago, she was thought to be on the mend but a suddenly took a turn for the worse.
She had legions of fans worldwide who are saddened to learn of her demise.
Seeta was acknowledged by Indo-Guyanese community leaders not only as a fantastic singer but also a great human being. She performed at countless public functions. Her performances, renditions with an evergreen voice, were bankable. She sang single and duo as well as in choral performances. Her voice mesmerized audiences wherever she performed. And she performed in various locations in America as well as in Canada, India, Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica. She carved a special place for devotional songs related to Diwali and religious services.
She will be remembered for her bhajans and remarkable Hindi Filmi songs with her inspiring voice. She contributed to charitable humanitarian service, the way few did. She never said no to a request. She committed herself to her people. There was hardly a public event that involved singing Indian (Hindi, Bhojpuri, Guyanese dialect) songs that she was not asked to put in a performance. Her presence at public events was always acknowledged because of her standing in the Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean community. She gave of her service willingly without payment. She performed at countless events including at every Indian Arrival Day celebrations in New York going back for two decades.
Seeta was a true patriot, a faithful servant of the Guyanese diaspora in America. She supported and or lent a helping hand every event fund raising that was Guyanese, Indo-Caribbean, and Indian diaspora related. She was at the annual Guyana Independence Day and India Independence Day events. Her presence was noted that the India Day parade as well as at the Diwali and Holi parades. She was honored for her singing talent and charitable, community activities by dozens of organizations. Regrettably, she was not recognized or honored by the governments of Guyana or Trinidad or India for her contributions to the diaspora of those nations.
As Dr. Tara Singh, President of the Guyana Democracy Project, noted, “With the death of Seeta, the community is very saddened. She is a terrific singer, a legend. She is a cultural icon. She is one of the most respected and versatile vocalists of the Indian, Indo-Caribbean and Guyanese diasporas. Her community work is immeasurable. We have lost a great soul, a terrific personality. No one can replace her”.
I’m very fortunate to have attended countless events where Seeta performed including at mandirs, weddings, matticores, funerals, wakes, jhandis, Koran Shariefs. Bhagwats, Ramayanas, concerts, and the like. She had a very warm, friendly, charming personality. She had a lovely voice of a nightingale. In her speech, she had a gentle voice and always a smiling face. She was never angry or upset with anyone. She sang at events that Dr. Singh and I organized on India Independence celebrations and we recognized her contributions to the Guyanese diaspora.
Indo-Caribbean President Ralph Tamesh praised Seeta’s contributions to the Indian Caribbean Federation for over thirty years. “She was a judge for various talent and beauty competitions at the Arrival Day celebrations. She entertained Seniors at the annual Christmas luncheon. She brought many talents together, a mentor to vocalists. We will miss her participation”.
Her death is loss to the Indo-Caribbean music fraternity as well as to the Indo-Guyanese community in America. We will miss her immensely.
Indo-Caribbean singers praised her contributions to the community. My deepest condolences to her family. May her soul rest in peace. Her family should take comfort in the fact that her musical legacy will live on forever! Om Shanti! May her atma gain moksha. Ram Naam Sath Hai!