Firdausi Begum: Sweetness and light
By Anis Shakur
Kahan ho tum ko dhoond rahi hain,ye baharain ye sama
Firdausi Begum, highly distinguished singer of the yesteryears, was born in Kooch Bihar, Bengal, India, in 1941.
The daughter of eminent composer, Abbas Uddin, Firdausi grew up in the musical atmosphere.
Her music teachers began teaching her music as soon as she could talk.
She received extensive music lessons from Ustaad Munir Husain Khan, Ustaad Mohammad Husain Khan and Ustaad Mastaan Gama.
Moreover, Ustaad Qadir Zamiri, nephew of Ustaad Zamir Uddin Khan, trained Firdausi in the art of ghazal singing and thumri.
She incorporated the basics of music rapidly and with great flair.
It seems that God wanted her to be a singer and that is a lot to live up to. She could feel the music glow within her.
Firdausi spent her earlier days with her family in Calcutta, India. After partition, she migrated with her parents to
Firdausi, who was very talented and irrepressibly ambitious, soon started participating in Children's music programs,
broadcast from Dacca radio station.
She also entertained music lovers with her songs, in private musical gatherings.
In July 1955, the first song from Dacca radio station was broadcast in fourteen-year-old Firdausi's voice.
She earned encomiums from numerous dignitaries present on that occasion.
Prominent amongst them was reputed Bengali Poet, Qazi Nazrul Islam, who was all praise for Firdausi's performance.
The crowd erupted in cheers. The listeners rose to their feet to have a glimpse of her.
Firdausi, who was determined to fulfill her music teachers dream, exulted amid loud applause.
Firdausi debut from the super hit film 'Chanda' in 1962. She recorded two songs for the film.
As a matter of fact, the film 'Chanda' was also the first Urdu movie made in Bangladesh.
Below is the first Urdu film song recorded in Firdausi's voice. It was a heartfelt little melody:
'Akhian tori rah takain' (The film 'Chanda', 1962, composer: Robin Ghosh, director: Captain Ehtesham)
Her voice was so pure that the strains of tragedy still echoes in ones ears, as one listens to the second song of the
film 'Chanda' in Firdausi's voice:
'Maut kay rahay low sada.'
Hope and belief in her, was the secret of her success.
The next year, 1963, another super hit film, 'Talaash', was released in Bangladesh. Great films have an enduring quality.
The film 'Talaash' was one of them.
Firdausi sang the following romantic number. In reality, that rendition became the most radio-requested song in those
'Kuchh apni kaheye, kuchh meri suniye, ye raat ye tanhaye, yoon chup to na raheye.'
Firdausi lent her voice to 'intelligent' films, which attracted a sizable public. There is still a huge audience for
Below follows a masterpiece, which was a giant leap of success in Firdausi's musical career. This is one lyrical number
her adorers can live with. It was an eloquent art of composition, as well:
'Dil dharaknay ka sabab yaad Aaya, wo teri yaad thee, ab yaad Aaya.'
The haunting words and simple melody lingered in our hearts, just as they have lingered in the hearts of people throughout
Firdausi, whose dedication to music was absolute, sang the following romantic score with verve and vivacity:
'Mausum rangeela, nasheeli hawa' (The film 'Talaash')
After the mega hit 'Kaheye, suniye', Firdausi's voice became absolutely essential for almost every Urdu film, which was
made in Bangladesh during those days.
Further, she also received the Presidential Award for best singer for the Bengali film 'Aasia'.
Additionally, Firdausi also rendered her voice for the following films: 'Saat rang', 'Kajal', 'Preet na janay reet'.
In the mid 1960s, Firdausi visited Karachi to record a song for the film 'Sehra'.
Among others, she also met Nazeer Baig, popularly known as Nadeem. She was so moved by his singing voice that she recommended
him to director Captain Ehtesham. The rest is history.
Memories of our childhood floods back, as we listen to the familiar romantic number from the film 'Milan':
'Koi dil mein Aa kay muskura gaya' (The film 'Milan', director: Rehman, singer: Firdausi Begum, composer: Khan Ata Ullah
Firdausi, who had a natural instinct for music, enchanted the movie-goers with the words and melody of the following
'Hai ye Aalam tujhay bhulanay say' (The film 'Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daula').
The following song was recorded 37 years ago. It continues to exude an overwhelming melancholy to this day, because Firdausi's
harmonious voice delineated tragic story:
'Kahan ho tum ko dhoond rahi hain, ye baharain, ye sama' (The film 'Chakori', 1966, composer: Robin Ghosh, singer: Firdausi
Begum, pictured on Shabana).
Her voice, itself an instrument, Firdausi's songs are all sweetness and light. She lent her voice to the following slow
lyrical number in her particular brand of sentimentality:
'Wo meray saamnay tasweer banay baithay hain, meray her khwab ki tabeer banay baithay hain' (The film 'Chakori.')
What is unique about the following song is that the sweetness is so profound:
'Khanak jaye ray chandi ka mera jhumka' (The film 'Chakori')
Most definitely, Firdausi's fans still remember her superfluous song, 'Yeh arzu jawaan jawaan, yeh chandni dhuaan
dhuaan', composed by Robin Ghosh, for the film 'Caravaan.'
Well-wishers can't say enough good things about the singer, who gave so much of herself to music.
Forty eight years ago, Firdausi first rendered her musical voice to radio and later
to the films-its words and tunes are still so familiar and beloved that they seem meshed with our very existence-promises
to be around quite a while longer.