Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Divine Musical Collaboration - Noor Jehan & Khurshid Anwar

In the wake of Khalid Hasan's death, the great Pakistani songstress Noor Jehan (Wikipedia) has been much on my mind. Khalid Hasan was a great admirer of the late Madam and wrote a much quoted tribute essay on Noor Jehan. Perhaps more importantly he translated Saadat Hasan Manto's great portrait of Noor Jehan's early years as a rising diva in pre-partition Bombay under the title "Nur Jehan: One in a Million" (unfortunately this link is to a scan of the essay and hard to read but the essay is included in the collection "Stars from Another Sky"). "Stars from Another Sky" includes other translations of Manto's brilliant Urdu sketches published in "Ganjay Farishtay" and "Loudspeaker" on film industry icons like Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Naseem Bano (Dilip Kumar's wife, Saira Bano's mother) and Shyam.

I have been listening to many of Noor Jehan's great songs from the 1950's. Listening to this music when she was at the pinnacle of her singing powers is a magical experience but one thing stands out. She was at her greatest when teamed up with that other giant of Pakistani film music: the virtuosic scholar composer Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. After he moved to Lahore in 1955, his music in films like Mirza SahibaaN" (1955), "Intezaar" (1956), Zehr-e-Ishq (1958), "Koel" (1959) and as late as 1970 in "Heer Ranjha" provided the perfect platform to showcase Noor Jehan's vocal talent. Khawaja Khurshid Anwar needs a separate blog post all his own but one of my treasured possessions is the recordings he arranged in Pakistan under the title "GharanoN ki Gayaki" to help capture and preserve the various styles of classical singing of several of the "Hindustani" schools of gayaki.

Now for my choice of the brilliant collaboration between Khurshid Anwar and Noor Jehan. Here is the song "Tere Bina Suni Suni Lage Re, Chaandni Raat" from the film "Koel". I love listening to this over and over again much to the chagrin of my family.

and here is the beautiful "Aa Bhi Ja, Aa Bhi Ja" from the film "Intezaar":
Ghazab kia tere waade pe aitbaar kiya
Tamam raat qayamat ka intezaar kiya

Top Photo: Noor Jehan and Pran in Lahore fimmaker Dilsukh Pancholi's film "Khandaan" (1942) - This was Noor Jehan's first film in Urdu (she had previously starred in four Punjabi films). The music was by Master Ghulam Haider.

Bottom Photo: Khawaja Khurshid Anwar in 1957 holding the President's Award for Best Story and Best Music for the film "Intezaar".

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Khalid Hasan (1934 - 2009) - Rest in Peace

Khalid Hasan, a giant of Pakistani journalism, died on February 6th in Northern Virginia of prostate cancer at the age of 74. In him, Pakistan and the sub-continent have lost a remarkable journalist, a talented translator, an acute cultural critic and an inside chronicler of people and events on the Pakistani cultural scene, particularly of the times before the barrenness of the Zia years set in.

There has been an outpouring of appreciations of Khalid Hasan as a man and a journalist. Here is a message from his son and an appreciation by Afzal Khan. For a flavoring of his lifetime of writings the best resource is his own site Khalid Hasan Online. This site has an extensive collection of his journalistic writings but I would direct people to some of the "Longer Pieces" such as "Nur Jehan" or "Sialkot" to fully experience his fine social sensibility and the infectious warmth for people that shines through.

On this blog, one of the most read entries is on the child prodigy Master Madan. That piece had derived inspiration in part from Khalid Hasan's column on Master Madan's lost recordings in Dawn. We never met in person but at the time I reached out to Khalid Hasan Sahib to express my appreciation for his contributions to Pakistani letters. He was extremely generous in his response and I will cherish that brief exchange with him.

In memoriam, here is the e-mail tribute I had written to him on October 2nd, 2006 and his warm acknowledgment of it.
Khalid Hasan Sahib,

I have been a fan of your journalistic writing for years. Although, on many occasions I have meant to reach out and express my gratitude for your writings on Pakistani (& sub-continental) culture, somehow I never got around to actually doing it. An important part of your contribution is your choice of writing in the English language. In doing so, you are helping preserve the memory of precious bits of our culture, both for the Pakistani diaspora and the young Pakistani elite, which even if it cares about our heritage, no longer considers knowledge of literary Urdu an important component of its identity.

There are so many forgotten corners of our cultural history that you have illuminated, its hard to know where to start. Your writings on Government College, Lahore and the many illustrious people associated with it have always brought back wonderful memories and revealed wonderful tidbits about those luminaries. My father, Khawaja Muhammad Zakariya studied there, taught Urdu there for a year in 1962 before spending the rest of his career at Punjab University, so I grew up hearing stories about legends like Patras, Dr. Nazeer, Taseer, Sufi Tabassum and countless others. I also particularly enjoy your writings on Lahore and your profiles of distinguised people (statesmen, writers, musicians, poets, film and radio-wallahs). I have been delighted that you have been translating much of A. Hameed's personal recollections of Lahore as they capture so many little details of a Lahore that no longer exists (even if some details of A. Hameed's accounts have been disputed by others, but then again that is the nature of memory) .

Cultural history, memoir and biographical essay remain much neglected areas in our country and you are helping capture so much of what is being lost. At least in Urdu there are many more volumes but one wishes more of those were translated as well. Manto's biographic sketches are, of course, pure genius. Ashiq Hussain Batalvi ("Chand yadeiN chand taasurat"), Daud Rahbar ("Paraganda tab'aa log", "Nuskha hai wafa", "Chand bateiN sureeli see"), Intizar Hussain ("CharaghoN ka dhuaN", "Dilli tha jis ka naam"), Lutfullah Khan ("Sur ki talash", Hijraton ke silisile") and Manzoor Ilahi's "Silsila-e-roz-o-shab" have given me great pleasure over the last few years. Perhaps other talented and prolific people like you will take the cudgels one day and bring these works to an English-speaking audience.

I apologize for this impolitely long communication. What finally prompted this e-mail was an essay I just read by Pran Neville on Master Madan. It took me back to your illuminating article on Master Madan published in Dawn in 2001 (from which his seems to be derived) and your account of the discovery of his lost recordings by M. Rafiq. I had heard the two Saghir Nizami ghazals growing up as my father played those recordings for us but I am fortunate enough to have listened to the other six recordings on the internet as well. Pran Neville's essay prompted me to write a brief entry on my blog which I thought you might find mildly interesting(

Please carry on your wonderful work. There aren't too many people left who can shine such a bright light on the hidden corners of our rich and beautiful cultural heritage.

Kind Regards,


My dear Fawad Zakariya Sahib,

I am overwhelmed by your letter (which is what emails can be but seldom are). I really had no idea I have done all that you credit me with. I take it you are able to access The Friday Times for which I write the "memorabilia" pieces every week. I should add that I have translated almost all of Manto's Ganjay Frishtay which was first published by Penguin in New Delhi as Stars from Another Sky. Those translations were later included in the omnibus volume A Wet Afternoon, published by Alhamra in Islamabad. You will be pleased to know that I have translated a lot more of Manto (including his only stage play, the little-read 'Iss Manjhdaar Mein' and many stories I had left out, plus some of his sketches) which is now under publication by Penguin in New Delhi. I hope the book is in print by the next Spring.

By the way, I studied at Murray College and though I joined Government College for a few months for MA (English) but (is that heresy?), I preferred to return to Sialkot where we still had wonderful British teachers like Prof A. W. Mowat. That being so, I cannot (and have not) called myself a Ravian. Prof. Zakariya Sahib of course I know of but as far as I can recall I have never met him. Our son lives close to ___ and next time I am in that part of the world, perhaps we can meet.

All the best and thank you for your most heart-warming message.

Khalid Hasan

Photograph: Khalid Hasan with Ahmed Faraz (seated)