Ghazal Queen: Iqbal Bano

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Iqbal Bano

 

I read an amazing article this morning. It is an exposition on the ghazal, its dominant status in the world of serious Pakistani music and its sublime ability to express the deepest feelings of both the human and divine heart. The article includes a number of ghazalein that are interpreted by qawwals as well as ghazal singers and is definitely worth 20 minutes of your time. In fact, almost everything the writer Musab bin Noor does is worth reading.

 

As I listened to the ghazalein and reflected on the article (so full of information) my mind turned towards Iqbal Bano one of the subcontinent’s most accomplished singers who awed, excited and challenged her audience for half a century. This obituary from The Guardian provides an excellent summation of her life.

 

Indeed, with two outstanding pieces of writing like these there is little need for me to stumble around for words that do justice to the artistry of this important musical voice.

 

This selection of ghazalein is another of the gems from the treasure chest of Radio Pakistan archival material released in a massive 57 CD box set under the name Music Pakistan. If you’ve been following me around the net for the last several years you no doubt have heard of this collection. The more I listen to these CDs the more I appreciate just what a massive contribution to music they are.

 

A few years ago I wrote a piece on Iqbal Bano and shared another CD from this collection, of her singing thumris. If you’re interested I’ve updated the link there and you can enjoy that set as well!

Iqbal Bano vol 1 copy

Iqbal Bano vol 1_0001 copy

Track Listing

01 Hum baagh-e-tamanna mein

02 Ub kay hum bichhray

03 Jaaenge jeete ji

04 Tu bahar-e-naghma-e-nur

05 Mohabbat karne wale

06 Kitni taskin hai wabasta

07 Woh is ada se jo aaye

08 Ishq minnat kash-e-qarar nahin

09 Laayi hyat aaaye qaza10 Mujhe su bhula chuke hain

11 Diya hai dil agar us ko

12 Kab therega dard

13 Jis tarah tund hawa

14 Koi had nahin

Iqbal

West of Bollywood: Film Songs of Pakistan

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Everyone knows Noor Jehan, arguably the finest female popular voice to emerge from the subcontinent in the last century. But many of the singers on this excellent collection remain unknown beyond the borders of Pakistan. This is sad because the likes of Salim Raza, S.B. John and Naseem Begum, each with distinctive sounds deserve much wider appreciation.

 

The film industry of Pakistan, centered around Lahore and Karachi, but also Dhaka until 1971, has rightly or wrongly been ignored by the outside world. Even within Pakistan there are few these days that express as deep an affection for the films, actors and singers of Lollywood as they do for India’s glimmering gallery.

 

You won’t be able to tell if the movies that these songs were part of were any good until you watch them. I’ve seen a couple and they are not bad. The real lo-fi standards of film making were still a decade and a half or more in the future when these films were released. But listen to these songs and tell me if you think they are any less beautiful than what was coming out of Bombay at the same time.

 

Zindabad!

pak film front

pak film back

Track Listing:

01 Jalte Hain Armaan [Anarkali] (Noor Jehan)

02 Too Jo Nahin Hai [Savera] (SB John)

03 Aaye Mausam Rangile [Saat Lakh] (Zubeida Khanum)

04 Shah-e-Madina [Noor-e-Islam] (Salim Raza)

05 Too Lakh Chale Ri [Gumnaam] (Iqbal Bano)

06 Nighahen Mila Kar [Mehboob] (Noor Jehan)

07 Chandni Raaten [Dopatta] (Noor Jehan)

08 Tum Zindagi Ko [Dopatta] (Noor Jehan)

09 Yaaro Mujhe Muaaf [Saat Lakh] (Salim Raza)

10 Raj Dularay [Naukar] (Kausar Parveen)

11 Mudat Hui Hai Yaar [Ghalib] (Noor Jehan)

12 Ae Mard-e-Mujahid [Changez Khan] (Inayat Bhatti)

13 Ham Bhool Gaye Har [Saheli] (Naseem Begum)

14 Ulfat ki Nai Manzil Ko [Qatil] (Iqbal Bano)

Lollywood

The Parrot of India: Amir Khusrau

parrot

Amir Khusrau is one of those historical figures credited with all manner of inventions, inspirations and the beginning of many movements and trends.  Most famously, he is identified in the South Asian popular imagination, as the spiritual father of Indian (in the non-geographic sense of the word) music.  His admirers and exponents claim that he invented the sitar and tabla.  That he created new forms of music including qawwali, tarana and even the classical khyal.

Like most hoary figures of the past, it is not entirely possible to say precisely exactly what Khusrau’s contribution to Indian music was. But historians are in general agreement that he was a heavily influential figure, and akin to what the modern age has termed a Renaissance Man.  Poetry, mystical reflection, music, art, social comment and history, as well as foreign languages were all fields of the great man’s accomplishment.  And the very fact that so many branches of subcontinental culture trace their origins to this medieval genius suggests that he was indeed, a Spirit to contend with.

Though born in a northern part of India now known as Uttar Pradesh, his father was a Turkic member of the upper classes of Central Asia who fled to India to escape the horrible, sweeping invasions of the Mongol hordes. Ab’ul Hasan Yamin al-Din Khusrow, who later became known as Amir Khusrau, was a boy of prodigious intellect and intellectual curiosity.  Fluent in several languages, including Persian and Arabic, he seemed to have been born with an innate understanding of poetry. Indeed, his Persian compositions are considered some of the greatest literary works in that language.  In modern Iran, Khusrau, is regarded as one of the most brilliant exponents of the Persian language, not very far below Hafiz and Sa’adi.

As a young man he met and became a disciple of the patron saint of Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Separated by only a few years they two men became very close associates and companions.  Of all his many disciples, the great Sufi, considered Khusrau to be his dearest and most loved.  Famously, he requested to for the two to share the same grave! While this, of course, did not happen, Amir Khusrau died several month after this Spiritual mentor and is buried next to him at a shrine that is one of Delhi’s most revered. One of many tales told of the men’s mutual affection and respect is included below:

Khusrau and Nizamuddin

Khusrau and Nizamuddin

 

Nizamuddin Auliya had thousands of disciples. Out of them, 22 were totally devoted disciples who considered him as God Incarnate.

Once, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya thought of putting them to a test. He roamed around with his disciples for the whole day in the market of Delhi. As night fell, he went to a brothel. The prostitute led him upstairs with great respect and courtesy. All the disciples were waiting downstairs in anticipation, ‘Guruji should be coming down soon…he should be coming soon.’

The prostitute was immensely pleased and wondered as to what stroke of fortune had brought this saintly person to her place. She said to Auliyaji, “I have been blessed by your presence here. In what way, may I render service to you?”

Auliya told her, “Instruct your maid to bring food on a platter along with water in a liquor bottle, in such a manner that my disciples get the impression that I have asked for food and liquor.”

The prostitute had but to obey the command. She instructed her maid accordingly.

After a little while, the maid carried the food and the liquor bottle upstairs as per the instructions. Some of the disciples contemplated, ‘We were under a mistaken impression…Guruji is not what we have been thinking all along. He has asked for liquor!’ Thinking thus, some of the disciples ran away 

As the night progressed, more and more of his disciples left one by one. Finally, it was dawn, and Auliya came downstairs.

He saw only Amir Khusro waiting for him. Feigning ignorance, he enquired, “Where have the others gone?”

Amir Khusro replied, “All have left.”

Auliya asked, “Why did you not leave? Didn’t you notice that I had asked for liquor, and spent the whole night with the prostitute.

Amir Khusro replied, “O Master! I might have left, but where could I have gone except towards your lotus feet?”

Benign Grace poured out of Nizamuddin Auliya’s heart, and he said, “Your wait is now over. You are accomplished.”

Such was the single pointed faith of Amir Khusro. Even to this day, the shrine of Amir Khusro beside that of Nizamuddin Auliya reminds us of a sincere disciple’s devotion to Guru, a disciple’s unshakable faith in Guru.

Click here for a lovely article on the relationship between these two mighty men of the middle ages by the poet, Aparna Chatterjee.

Today’s selection is a brilliant 3 CD collection of Amir Khusrau’s music and poetry produced by EMI.  All performances are by Pakistani artists, some internationally renown (Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan), some less so (Bilqees Khanum, Ishrat Jehan, Ijaz Hussain Hazravi). All of the material is fantastic and I especially like the several tunes by Mehnaaz and the Bilqees Khanum/Ishrat Jehan combo.  This is indeed, a fine tribute to the man who called himself, the Parrot of India (Toot al Hindi).

Amir Khusroo Amir Khusroo_back

Track Listing (1)

01 Chhaap Tilak Sab Chheeni[Sabri Brothers]

02 Khabram Raseedah [Iqbal Bano]

03 Sakal Ban Phool Rahi Sarson [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

04 Beshagufta Gul [Ghulam Ali]

05 Man Kunto Maula [Sabri Brothers]

06 Achchhe Banne Mehndi Laawan De [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

07 Ek Sajan Mere Man Ko Bhaawe [Arifa Siddiqui]

08 Mara Dosh Goyi [Mehdi Hassan]

09 Har Shab Manam [Ijaz Hussain Hazravi]

10 Sajan Yeh Mat Jaaniyo [Nasima Shaheen and Nighat Seema]

11 Hare Hare Baans [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

♪♪♫

Track Listing (2)

01 Nami Danam [Sabri Brothers]

02 Jaan Ze Tan [Ghulam Ali]

03 Mohe Rakh Le Tu Aaj Ka Din [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

04 Mai To Piya Se Naina Laga Aayi Re [Arifa Siddiqui]

05 Man Banda [Mehdi Hassan]

06 Abr Mere Bar Doman [Iqbal Bano]

07 Ae Chehra [Ijaz Hussain Hazravi]

08 Ambwa Tale Dola Rakh De [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

09 Goondho Re Maalan Phoolon Ka Sehra [Mehnaaz]

10 Khabram Raseedah [Sabri Brothers]

♪♪♫

Track Listing (3)

01 Aaj Rang Hai [Sabri Brothers]

02 Chali Re Nayi Naar [Mehnaaz]

03 Amma Mere Baba Ko Bhejo [Bilqees Khanum and ishrat Jehan]

04 Kahe Ko [Sabri Brothers]

05 Aaj To Na Mai Aisi Banaungi [Nahid Akhtar]

06 Chhaap Tilak Sab Chheeni [Bilqees Khanum and Ishrat Jehan]

07 Kahe Ko Byaahe Bides [Nasima Shaheen and Nighat Seema]

08 Zehaal-E-Miskin [Sabri Brothers]

09 Daiya Re Mohe Bhejo [Bilqees Khanum and ishrat Jehan]

10 Aaj Ye Kaun Sa Mehmaan Aaya [Hamid Ali Khan]

♪♪♫