Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Memoriam - The Great Iqbal Bano (1935-2009)

Iqbal Bano, one of the great exponents of semi-classical ghazal singing in the sub-continent, passed away in Lahore at the age of 74. I have recounted a reverie precipitated by her beautiful rendition of Faiz's ghazal "Yeh mausam-e-gul" in a previous post.

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


Zakintosh said...

Good links. Maybe you and your readers will enjoy this home recording http://tinyurl.com/cfhngg of a Farsi ghazal by her.

I wish i could get hold of at least two of the others she used to sing: Namaazé Ashiqaañ Bar Daar Deedam & Mann Jüdaa Giryah Künam, Abr Jüdaa, Yaar Jüdaa

APZ said...

Lovely tribute, Fawad. A nice biographical lesson for me too - especially w/r/t her contribution to transforming the ghazal singing style... I know you are enjoying listening to her this evening...Aisha

Irum Musharraf said...

Funny, I came across your blog while searching some of my favorite tunes in tribute this evening. She is echoing the world over I imagine. Great picks on this blog. I have found nearly all except one of my all times- pareshaan raat chhaee hai, sitaron tum to so jaao. Any ideas on how to get that one?

Fawad Zakariya said...

@Zak: thanks as always both for visiting and enlightening.

@Aisha: a visit from within the household. This is my lucky day. Thanks for the nice comments.

I have been listening to Iqbal Bano tonight but stuck on one of my favorite ghazals for which I could not find a youtube link. For those of us who have settled abroad this has a real poignancy and brings tears to my eyes:

Jis tarah tund hawa kunj-e-shajar se guzre
YooN teri yaad mere chaak-e-jigar se guzre

hijr mein jab bhi teri yaad ka darya umda
Anginat ashk mere deeda-e-tar se guzre

Fawad Zakariya said...

Irum, glad you stumbled on to the blog.

I did find the link to "Pareshan raat saari hai" from "Ishq-e-Laila" on youtube. Here it is:

asma said...

beautifully summed up ... so another good voice ends here...

Junaid said...

Zaks enjoyed listening to her wonderful voice all day in the office through all the links in your article. grea job.

Faisal Irfan Mian said...

Master Madan, good research :-) (u know thats a private joke). I enjoyed reading your post and didn't realize the bit about the transformation of ghazal singing. Had the chance to listen to Iqbal Bano live (with your wife in fact) in 1993 and while she was clearly past her prime even then, she clearly took joy from singing Faiz.. maybe because it made her connect to her audience the best.

Musab said...

Another brilliant post.
Your blog has become one of my watering holes, for a bit of refreshment on barren days.
After Iqbal Bano's passing, there's only Fareeda Khanum and Mehdi Hasan left of the golden generation of ghazal singers. Here's hoping they stay among us for a long time...

vinaypande said...

you think saigal sang ghazals like "film songs"??? are you nuts?? he pioneered the style of singing them like thumris.he is the finest ghazal singer we have seen or heard in the last 100 years
akhtaribai and iqbal bano apart post partition ghazal singers are an unmitigated disaster....

you should listen to some old ghazals by faiyaz khan and abdul karim khan and you will see where saigal was coming from.