The Pakistani newspaper Dawn has a good obituary of Iqbal Bano here and some great photos of the icon in their media gallery. She was born in Delhi in 1935 and was the pupil of Ustad Chaand Khan of the Delhi Gharana. She moved to Pakistan in 1952 at the age of 17 and had her first public concert at the Lahore Art Center in 1957. She was awarded the "Pride of Performance" by the government in 1974.
Even though in the popular imagination her singing is eternally connected with the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and in particular with the anthem "Hum dekheiN ge", which she performed in virtually every public concert, Iqbal Bano was a versatile singer. She sang some very popular numbers for films in the 1950's. However, along with Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Farida Khanum and the maestro Mehdi Hassan her real distinction was to be a part of that august group of vocalists in Pakistan who revolutionized post-partition ghazal singing by transforming it into a semi-classical form like thumri and dadra. If you listen to pre-partition ghazals, even by eminences such as K.L Saigal, the ghazal was performed like a light film song. As Pakistani audiences were more hospitable to Urdu poetry rather than the arachaic lyrics of traditional semi-classical forms, the classically trained musicians such as Iqbal Bano adopted ghazal as their medium for classical musical expression. The effect was exhilarating for fans of both Urdu poetry and the Hindustani classical vocal tradition. In the next generation there are few who have the stature and skill of the first-generation of pioneering icons with the possible exception of Abida Parveen and to a lesser extent (in my opinion) Ghulam Ali.
But for any artist it is always the work that speaks most clearly so here is some sampling of Iqbal Bano's singing. I have selected, as embedded videos, a few of my favorite ghazals/geets by Iqbal Bano. Some are slightly lesser known but I have also provided some youtube links to her most popular music below.
Iqbal Bano singing Faiz's wonderful ghazal "Na gaNwaao navak-e-neem kush":
Here is a personal favorite semi-classical piece with traditional lyrics "Ab kay Saawan ghar aaja": (her live image starts at 1:52):
The semi-classical piece above was adapted as a "zippier" song version for the 1959 film 'Nagin' and here Iqbal Bano is singing that version on PTV:
For the last sample let's go out with perhaps Iqbal Bano's most popular geet "Payal meiN geet haiN cham cham ke" originally sung for the 1954 film 'Gumnaam":
And as promised links to some of her best known pieces: "Dasht-e-tanhai meiN" (Faiz) ; "Yeh mausam-e-gul garche tarab khez bohat hai" (Faiz); "Ulfat ki nai manzil ko chala" (Qatil Shifai); an unusual foray into Punjabi folk music "MeiN kamli da dhola hai raat" ; and the perennial "Hum dekheiN ge" (Faiz) which is inseparable from Iqbal Bano's persona in the Pakistani imagination.
Photo Courtesy: Dawn