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Iqbal Bano

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Iqbal Bano

Iqbal Bano: Ah! The agonies of success

By Anis Shakur

Pareeshan raat satati hai, sitaro tum to so jaao

Sukoot-e-marg taari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao

Pareeshan raat satati hai

Hamain to Aaj ki shab pau phatay tak jaagna hoga, jaagna hoga

Yehe qismat hamari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao

Pareeshan raat satati hai

Hamain bhee neend Aaja ye gee hum bhee so he jayein gey, so he jayein gey

Abhe kuchh bay qarari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao

Pareeshan raat satati hai

Tumhain kya hum agar lutay gaye rahay mohabbat mein, rahay mohabbat mein

Ye baazi hum nay haari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao

Pareeshan raat satati hai

Kahay jaatay ho ro ro kar hamara haal duniya say, haal duniya say

Ye kaisi raaz daari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao,

Pareeshan raat satati hai

As you move ahead, pass on your optimism and faith to the next generation.

The above phrase holds true to the renowned singer, Iqbal Banu. Banu was born in 1935 in Delhi, India. She took keen interest in music from her earlier days. Banu’s friends and family urged her father to allow her to learn music and he agreed.

Hence, Banu learned classical music, including thumri and dadra, from ustaad Chand Khan in Delhi. Later, ustaad Chand Khan recommended Banu to All India Radio, Delhi, where she sang for a while.

A Pakistani landlord was surely struck by Banu’s beauty and innocence and proposed her. Long story short, seventeen year old Banu was wedded to him in 1952.

A promise made is a promise kept. Banu’s husband gave his word to her that he will never be a hindrance in her musical career. Banu’s eyes smiled with the joy of today and the promise of tomorrow.

They enjoyed a blissful married life for twenty-eight years. Banu’s better half kept his word up until his death in 1980.

Banu spend her married life in Lahore. Initially, she took music lessons from ustaad Aashiq Ali Khan and ustaad Abdul Kareem Khan.

In reality, it is only in recent years that many people have truly woken up to the fact that women could also accomplish remarkable things as men do.

Throughout her singing career, Banu frequently recorded ghazals for Radio Pakistan. In 1954, nineteen-year-old Banu recorded her first film song. The lyrics were ‘Tu laakh chalaree gori thum, thum, kay, payal mein geet hain chham, chham, kay.’ The film ‘Gum naam,’ March 26, 1954, music, Inayat Husain, lyrics, Qateel Shifai- Saif uddin Saif. All told, it is a very heartfelt song.

The song below is an exquisite blend of torment and anguish, pain and pathos. Essentially, Banu lifted up her voice with strength and made the lyrics all the more forceful and effective:


‘Ulfat ki naye manzil ko chala tu bahain daal kay bahoan main.’ The film ‘Qaatil,’ January 22, 1955, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Inayat Husain.

Ulfat ki naye manzil ko chala tu bahain daal kay bahoan mein

Dil toarnay walay deikh kay chal hum bhee to paray hain rahoan mein

Ulfat ki naye manzil ko chala

Hum bhee hain wohe tum bhee ho wohe

Ye apni apni qismat hai, ye apni apni qismat hai

Tum khail rahay ho khushiyoan mein hum doop gaye hain Aahoan mein

Dil toarnay walay deikh kay chal hum bhee to paray hain rahoan mein

Ulfat ki naye manzil ko chala


Kiya kiya na jafaaein dil pay saheen per tum say koi shikwa na kiya

Per tum say koi shikwa na kiya

Phir Aaj hain kyon hum bay ganay teri bay dard nigahoan main

Dil toarnay walay deikh kay chal hum bhee to paray hain rahoan main

Basically, Banu’s every song represents tremendous labor and endless observation on her part. Below is one example:

‘Chore hamain kis desh sidharay.’ The 1955 film ‘Inteqaam,’ music, Inayat Husain.
Below is Banu’s meritorious and delightful song, which partially explains her marvelous fecundity of output by an assumed mediocrity of talent:

‘Dono diloan pay hua hai ulfat ka asar.’ The 1955 film ‘Inteqaam,’ music, Inayat Husain.

It fills ones heart with hope, aspiration and longing as one listens to a soulful Banu: ‘Taroan ka bhee tu maalik, ye chand bhee tera hai.’ The film ‘Sarfarosh,’ June 15, 1956, music, Rasheed Attre

Apparently, Banu did not possessed every singing ability as a child, because she did not then knew what she knows now.

Twenty-two-year old Banu gave her first public presentation in 1957 at Arts Council Lahore. In the annals of Indo-pak music, it is seldom that a woman has been so loudly and widely lauded for talents in so many voices, and so many instruments. Yes, I am referring to that occasion when Banu sang Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s popular poetry, ‘Hum deikhein gey jab takht giraye jayein gey, jab Taj uchalay jayein gey.’ Truth be told, Banu became an integral part of Faiz’s poetry.

The chief characteristic of Banu’s voice is the passion she inspired in every fan that came near her, and the utmost devotion of the admirers towards her.

Banu was brilliant in ‘Ik halki, halki, Aahat hai, ik mehka, mehka saya hai'.’ The film ‘Ishq-e-Laila,’ April 12, 1957, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Safdar Husain.

A glorious gift from the past: Banu’s voice created a fabulous ghazal recorded in humble circumstances fifty years ago.

‘Pareeshan raat saari hai, sitaro tum to so jaao,’ the film ‘Ishq-e-Laila, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Safdar Husain.

Banu was a public singer at last to exultant countrymen: ‘O sajan bichwa bajay ray, lagee kisi say najaria.’ The 1957 film ‘Aankh ka nasha,’ music, Inayat Husain.

Perhaps, composer Inayat Husain utilized Banu’s vocals considerably in ‘Aik pal bhee naheen Aaraam yahan.’ The 1957 film ‘Aankh ka nasha.’

Likewise, the emotions conveyed by the depth and intonation in Banu’s voice is exemplary in ‘Baan nainoan kay seenay pay maroon gee mein.’ The film ‘Nagin.’ June 18, 1959, music, Safdar Husain, lyrics, Qateel Shifai.

Readers, just think of the day when Banu wore a plain, hauntingly evocative melody: ‘Ambwa ki darion say jhulna jhula ja, abkay sawan tu sajan ghar Aaja.’ The film ‘Nagin,’ June 18, 1959, music, Safdar Husain, lyrics, Qateel Shifai.

Admittedly, the despondency and despair in Banu’s voice is vividly caught by composer Khwaja Khursheed Anwar in ‘Shab-e-mehtaab hai tanhai hai.’ The film ‘Ayaz,’ April 29, 1960, lyrics, Tanveer Naqui

Banu enthralled millions of music buffs in the melancholy strains of ‘Dasht-e-tanhaye mein aye jaan-e-jahan larzaan hai.’ Poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Dasht-e-tanhaye mein aye jaan-e-jahan larzaan hai

Teri Aawaaz kay saaye, teray hoantoan kay saraab

Dasht-e-tanhaye mein doori kay khas o khaak talay

Khil rahay hain teray pehlu kay saman aur gulaab.

I know with all my heart that those were sublime moments when Banu sang ‘Daagh-e-dil hum ko yaad Aanay lagay.’ Who can say when such a magical evening might happen again?

Setting a good example influence people more than precepts. Here is a dua in Banu’s voice: Aaye ye haath uthayain hum bhee.’

This ghazal of Nasir Kazmi in Banu’s voice also has an enduring quality: ‘Ishq jab zam zama tanha hoga.’

Banu’s voice enraptured the listeners in ‘Ranjish he sahe, dil dukha nay kay liye Aa.’ Poet, Ahmed Faraz.

Thanks to the poise and intelligence Banu displayed in this ghazal. The experience seems like something imagined: ‘Tum Aaye ho na shab-e-intizaar guzri hai, talaash mein hai sahar, baar, baar guzri hai.’

Obviously, Banu’s rendition delineated the tragic story: ‘Mohabbat karnay walay kam na hoan gey, teri mehfil mein laikin hum na hoan gey.’

It looks like Banu had been tested in this ghazal and she came out strong: ‘Apni mohabbat kay afsanay.’

Banu gave towering, trademark performances through the years. Example, ‘Kab thehray ga dard,’ poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

With ghazals like this one, Banu drew a steadily growing, more appreciative crowd: ‘Khamosh ho kyon,’

Banu’s rendering of Ghalib’s ghazal was proof yet again that she is as much a superlative ghazal singer as a keen observer of humanity: ‘Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiye huye.’

Banu is equally at ease with Persian ghazals. Consequently, she regularly made her presence felt in the musical programs in Iran and Afghanistan.

In 1974, the ‘Pride of Performance’ Award was conferred on Banu for propagation of music.

If Banu could leave one sentence as her legacy to the posterity, perhaps that phrase could be comprised of these four words, ‘Don’t ever give up.’

In this, the 71st year of Banu’s birth, her lilting voice, its words and tunes appear so appealing and attractive, that they seem to coincide with our real life stories. It is an affirmation that Iqbal Banu’s familiar singing voice will continue to dominate the eastern music for a long time to come.

Our beloved Pakistan