Habib Wali Mohammad: Rare as a century flower
By Anis Shakur
Way back in 1941, in Bombay, some young music lovers between 17 and 19 years of age were waiting outside
a room for an audition.
One by one, each candidate went in the room and was tested for his voice, diction, pronunciation and other
technicalities necessary to become a singer.
Amongst those enthusiastic teenagers was an eighteen year old lad, whose name was Mukesh Chand Mathur.
Behind Mukesh was another young boy and whose family name was Habib Tabani (popularly known as Habib Wali
Good news: Both of these young gentlemen passed the audition!
Habib Wali Mohammad was born in Rangoon to a conservative memon family.
He migrated to Bombay at a young age.
He was very fond of listening to Qawwali since his childhood. Innocent as he was, he thought that Qawwali
is what the music is all about.
A little later, he started taking interest in classical music in Bombay. He took lessons in classical music
from Ustaad Fayyaz khan's nephew, Latafath Husain.
However, due to academic pursuits, his interest in music was pushed aside.
With the passage of time, he was more inclined towards ghazal singing.
He participated in college musical functions and came to be known as the 'Taan sain' in his college.
As soon as he finished his college education, his parents sent him to America and he completed his MBA degree
in the U.S.A.
He returned to Bombay in the mid forties, and took part in a music competition, in which 1200 singers had
Habib Wali Mohammad had sung Bahadur Shah Zafar's immortal ghazal:
'Lagta nahi hai jee mera, ujray dayar mein' and a panel of judges awarded him the first prize.
Encouraged by this honor, at a young age, he took more interest in ghazal singing.
During his stay in America, he had been out of touch with music. Hence, he felt lonely and missed his earlier
college functions at Bombay.
In his own words: He was not happy in 'Ujray dayar mein' the same ghazal which had won him an award of a
He put a lot of effort and came out with a gramophone record of ghazals in his voice.
On one side of the record, he dubbed Bahadur Shah Zafar's ghazals and on the other side, Ghalib's ghazals.
Unfortunately, the Indian public was reluctant to buy them.
In those days, a prominent Indian actress, Meena Kumari, was affiliated with Radio Ceylon, she happened
to listen to those ghazals and liked them so much, that she made it a point to broadcast them daily from Radio Ceylon.
Thousands of listeners heard those ghazals on radio and rushed to the music stores to buy the gramophone
records: Habib Wali Mohammad became a celebrity.
After partition, he migrated to Pakistan and sang hundreds of ghazals for the gramophone companies.(including
a geeth written by Perveen Shakir: 'Gori karath singhar')
In eighties, he recorded ghazals in audio cassettes which were composed by renowned music director Nisar
Also, he received offers to record play back songs for the Pakistan film industry.
First and foremost, he is a prominent businessman.(Shalimar silk mills is owned by Tabani group), however,
at his leisure, he did record quite a few numbers for movies.
He never made music his profession. Music has always been a hobby for him.
Every now and then, he take some time off for Radio, television, film or private concerts.
Once in a while, he sings when he is alone (don't ask in what sort of mood!)
The number of his admirers increase every day, as well as his interest in music.
He has attained success in all musical gatherings and concerts.
Fame came to him, though late, and this is how he addressed fame: 'Dair lagi Aanay may tum ko, shukar hai
phir bhi Aaye tou, Aas nay dil ka saath na chora, waisay hum ghabraye tou.'
Apart from this, he also received the prestigious nigar award. This, too, came a little late, and,
according to Radio Pakistan's announcer, Azim Sarwar, when the nigar award came in the hands of Habib Wali Mohammad, this
is what he said:
'Dair lagi Aanay mein tum ko.'
He sang a ghazal written by Ustaad Qamar Jalalavi which was an instant super hit: 'Kab mera nasheman ahelay
All ghazals of Bahadur Shah Zafar, sung by Habib Wali Mohammad were mega hits, including: "Na kisi ki Aankh
ka noor hoon'
Habib Wali Mohammad's elder brother, Ashraf Ali Tabani, has served as the governor of Sind, for quite some
Some of the ghazals, recorded in the voice of Habib Wali Mohammad are listed here below:
'Ye na thi hamari Qismath': poet: Ghalib
'Ja kahio unsay naseem-e-sahar': poet: Bahadur Shah Zafar.
'Gajra bana kay lay Aa malaniya': poet: Afshan Rana.
Following are the ghazals, which are considered as a treasure for the Pakistani films:
'Aaj janay ki zid na karo': poet: Fayyaz Hashmi, pictured on Nadeem.
'Aashiyan jal gaya' :poet: Raaz Illahabadi, film: 'Baazi.'
'Raatain theen chandni:Film: 'Baazi.'
National songs like: 'Roshan-o- afshan, nayyar-o-taban.'
'Lahu jo sarhad pay behra ha hai', touched the hearts of innumerable Pakistanis, hence Habib Wali Mohammad
has a huge following.
The enthused audience give him a standing ovation, where ever he goes.
Retired and settled in California, he is very courteous to his fans and does what ever he can for the betterment
He is a role model and an incessant source of inspiration for the Pakistanis around the globe.
Habib Wali Mohammad: We look forward to learn more from your experience.