The Benjamin Sisters Phenomenon

Posted on December 17, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
Total Views: 39798


Adil Najam

For many of us the 1980s talk-show Silver Jubilee was the very best of all of Anwar Maqsood’s television shows. And that is saying something given the many brilliants endeavors he was been part of. That the other maestro of Pakistan Television(PTV), Shoaib Mansoor, was the producer of this memorable series is another reason why.

The PTV show is memorable, most of all, for its selection of guests; especially for bringing back people from a bygone era of greats (Naeem Bokhari’s Yaadesh Bakhair was memorable for the same reason).

Another reason why it is memorable is because it launched the Benjamin Sisters phenomenon. This earnest trio was essentially brought in to simply re-render the great songs related to whoever was the guest that week. Over time, it was not just the songs but the Benjamin Sisters themselves who became the sensation.

There are some lessons to be learnt – not just about the performing arts but about life – from their success.

  • First, and most important, they sang really really well; moreover, by just looking at them singing you can see that they worked really hard and were very serious about singing well. The lesson here is that performance matters, talent matters, and hard work matters.
  • Second, in Anwar Maqsood and Shoaib Mansoor, they had two nurturing mentors. In a society where we are generally so insecure and unsure of ourselves that we are threatened by everyone else’s talents, here is a an example which shows that mentoring the talent of others not only gives them a break, it also makes you look better.
  • Third, the selection of the songs they sang was truly remarkable. I do not know for sure but my sense is that Anwar Maqsood might have had the largest role in this selection. It is too simple to say that they pulled at our nostalgia chords. For some, they did. But for many, especially in my generation, they introduced the great music of an earlier generation. And, lo and behold, it plucked at our hearts as much as it had at our parents. The lesson here is that things that are crafted properly (in this case, songs) are timeless. This lesson – I would like to think – is applicable well beyond songs.

Since then, the sisters (at least two of them) disappeared. One heard they got married. I do not know where they are and Google did not give me any clues. If you know, do share. But wherever they are, I hope they are well and prosperous and happy.

All of this was triggered by a stash of recently-loaded Benjamin Sister songs I found on YouTube.

Included in this post are two particularly catchy melodies. Note also the other guests sitting there. A young Javed Miandad and an ageless Shabnam in the first, and an older Waheed Murad in the other.

40 Comments on “The Benjamin Sisters Phenomenon”

  1. Owais Mughal says:
    December 17th, 2006 1:39 am

    you brought back old memories. I remember what an instant hit Silver junilee’s audio cassette was. One side was recorded with Benjamin sisters songs only and other side had all other singers. In our home Benjamin sister’s side of the cassette was rewound listened to over and over again. Besides their singing talent, the choice of songs also played a role in their popularity.

    Then there was part II of silver junilee songs released too. That also sold well but not as much as the first one.

    Great to see Miandad and Waheed Murad in these videos.

  2. Sobaan says:
    December 17th, 2006 2:01 am

    I would say that Silver Jubilee was the program that really set the trend for singing the old songs again. Later we saw other trends like the remixes etc, but I’d say that singing the old songs by new singers was first successfully experimented by Shoaib Mansoor in this lovely program.
    After the success of Benjamin Sister many other “sister bands” emerged on the scene that included Triple S Sisters, SA sisters and so on.
    As far as I remember the idea behind Silver Jubilee was to bring those people who have either contributed to the TV or film industry for 25 years or more, or the figure 25 played some important role in their lives.
    Anyways its a good thing atleast to remember the good programs that use to air on PTV in those days.

  3. shbn says:
    December 17th, 2006 2:16 am

    Adil, this has brought back beautiful memories. I remember the days when we would all sit and watch the usual pre-khabarnama show on PTV and silver Jubilee was certainly one of the best. I guess Anwar Maqsood’s shows like SJ, Studio Dhai, ponay teen etc. are comparable to SNL or Letterman today. Benjamin Sisters were indeed quite a phenomenon. Shoaib Mansoor has launched many young talents and almost all of his projects have been super hits. Vital Signs being one of them.

    Excellent post.

  4. Pakpics says:
    December 17th, 2006 4:16 am

    I liked them a lot but they were disappeared very soon, i was really interested to know that what happened to them but now news? do you know about?

  5. Asma says:
    December 17th, 2006 4:26 am

    aaah … Benjamin Sisters … what an olden memory and a wonderful one too … Nice post … somehow I remember one of the sister came in some drama laters on too …. I dont remember whic one though …maybe anyone else …?

  6. Eidee Man says:
    December 17th, 2006 4:57 am

    hi…one question…does anyone know if there is any significance behind ‘Benjamin’ which is a common Western first name.

  7. Moeen Bhatti says:
    December 17th, 2006 8:30 am

    Adil, you surely brought back good old memories & the good times….I was just thinking, in the time of Zia-ul-Haq the great, while we were growing up, this was the maximum entertainment that we had…

  8. Naveed Siraj says:
    December 17th, 2006 8:43 am

    if my memory serves me right, these were the days when pakistan was under martial law and this is in itself a great tribute to shoaib mansoor and anwar maqsood that they were able to pull off thinly vieled political humor during Silver Jubilee. The late Razzak Raju comes to mind who had an act with Qazi Wajid which I waited for the entire week

    What we have today as far a popular music is concerned a process that started off late in Junejo’s term and full-fledged unleashing of a more open television after Elections 1988. Pakistan media has transformed; several artists getting airtime on cable channels. One could argue about the quality but a distinctly pakistani pop culture has emerged.

    I am sure if Benamin sisters were to make a comeback, they would find their fan following supporting such a move; but as per my information, the trio broke up when the three ladies got married and one of them emigrated to North America.

    Alamgir got a rousing welcome when he visited pakistan a few months ago. The entire pop movement would emphatically welcome Alamgir back; due to corporate sponsorship pop music in Pakistan is a huge money earner. The pop bands/solo acts in Pakistan can learn from them a lot

    Nostalgia about Benjamin sisters is appropriate in that this was the start of old film music getting a new lease of life; in addition to them, I remember memorable performances by Shehki, Wahab Khan, Tehseen Javed, Sajid Ali and several others whose careers were launched with Silver Jubilee

  9. Daktar says:
    December 17th, 2006 10:37 am

    [quote comment="17411"]hi…one question…does anyone know if there is any significance behind ‘Benjamin’ which is a common Western first name.[/quote]

    I believe it was their last name. They belonged to the Pakistani Christian community from Karachi.

    In fact, the Pakistani Christian community has made many contributions to Pakistan music. A. Nayyar, I beleiev, is Arthur Nayyar.

  10. bhupinder says:
    December 17th, 2006 11:16 am

    Thanks for a wonderful treat !

  11. Shahid Husain says:
    December 17th, 2006 12:58 pm

    Absolutely brilliant! As many have said that it did back a flood of memories. Yes, it would be intresting to know where are they, I hope they are well, they did entertain a whole generation. I love this website. You provide stuff that no one else provides. Thank you!

  12. Samdani says:
    December 17th, 2006 6:43 pm

    Any idea why Miandad has that big smirk on his face in the first video. And who are the other two people. The first was a TV comeidan I think but the name I cannot remember.

  13. shbn says:
    December 17th, 2006 11:30 pm

    [quote comment="17478"]Any idea why Miandad has that big smirk on his face in the first video. And who are the other two people. The first was a TV comeidan I think but the name I cannot remember.[/quote]

    I have no idea why Miandad has the smirk on his face :) but the other guy is the famous comedian Ejaz, of Khwaja and Son fame. Also visible is film actress Shabnam and TV star Misbah Khalid in the audience.

  14. Adnan Ahmad says:
    December 18th, 2006 10:45 am

    Good memories. I remember the two of them performed for imran’s charity shows quite a few times. Then they just disappeared (perhaps because of marriage).

  15. muawiya says:
    December 18th, 2006 1:56 pm

    brings back a lovely time to mind…truly the golden years…those were really nice times for our TV industry as well…i think some of our best dramas are from that era too…anyboy remember “Tanhayan”? and so many more…really great times…

  16. December 18th, 2006 3:08 pm

    A delightful memory – from days when the entire family enjoyed the same sets of songs (minus those who liked the classical raags).
    But here’s a question: how did you ever get a sense from there videos that they are working hard to sing? They seem rather rigid and cold in their delivery, frankly both in their on-TV performance, and to some exten tin their vocals. I think it was mostly driven by the way TV presented those singers. We needed our own elvis to break that mold, and dare I say it was the Nazia-Zoheb duo who did that?

  17. Owais Mughal says:
    December 18th, 2006 4:55 pm

    Alamgir and Mohd Ali Shehaki were the trend-setters before Nazia-Zohaib

  18. Babar says:
    December 18th, 2006 5:21 pm

    I just want to add one observation. They sang in course and it seemed like one voice. to achieve that all three must have perfect coordination and that means all 3 have perfect knowledge of sur and tal of the song and very good traiing in singing.

  19. December 18th, 2006 5:33 pm

    Bilal, interesting point. Maybe I am taking reviewers liscence … maybe because I wanted to come to the conclusion I did ;-)

    Having said that, the one thing I had heard from some PTV hands is that this was one program and one set of singers that did rehersals like no others.

    More importantly, what you see as ‘rigidity’, I saw as earnestness and concentration. I may well be wrong. On a larger point, I was never much of a fan of the ‘hilna julna’ style of singing and at least some how distrated from their less-than-good singing by their more-than-needed amount of moving around. I know their is a place for ‘performance’ and it is part of the whole; there are even some whose ‘performance’ is really the thing you are attracted to them for. However, I sometimes do wonder if – first with TV and tehn with music videos – the ‘performance’ aspect became more important than the song itself.

    Again, all of this is a matter of personal taste; so we can disagree. There are some songs that are meant to be ‘seen’; some only to be ‘heard’; and some do not deserve to be either seen or heard ;-)

  20. shbn says:
    December 18th, 2006 5:48 pm

    I think they seem rigid because they are just lip synching. And their songs were awesome, so they did work hard..

  21. Naveed says:
    December 19th, 2006 3:36 am

    All PTV recorded programs have artists lip lync as audio recording will have taken place much before the airing of the program. Artists like Farida Khanum would be seen struggling with the songs because she finds it difficult to lip sync. Noor Jehan on the other hand indulged in what Adil has terms as “hilna julna” and she had ample sari’s and jewelry to be upbeat about :). I really do not think that the times during which Silver Jubilee was on, there was’nt enough hilna julna in the country let alone the media. I remember there was an Alamgir song that he did with a goree “daikha na tha” that was banned circa 75-76. Later on a much more sedate version of the song less the goree maim was aired. Atleast I do not ever seeing the original video aired again. Khalid Hasan who has written on Noor Jehan has rightly pointed out that lisening to the lady was an experience and she was much more lively at Albert Hall than Lata but again as Adil has indicated it is a matter of personal liking and choice.

  22. muawiya says:
    December 20th, 2006 2:10 pm

    you know i remember my “Buzurg” (elders) appreciating the fact that they don’t do much “hilna julna” but truly concentrate on the right delivery of the song…Like true singers…

  23. Adnan Ahmad says:
    December 22nd, 2006 10:51 pm

    I listened to pretty much all of their songs this evening on youtube. It almost takes one to that age of innocense when life was much simpler.

    Came across this brilliant anwar maqsood line about pakistan hockey team of the 80s (and it can very well be applied today), says about a pathetic performance:

    aaj pehli martaba astro turf pe khaak urtay daikhee!!

  24. SWA says:
    December 25th, 2006 4:20 am

    GReat post! brought back lots of old memories. I think somebody should make a wikipedia page about the Benjamin Sisters if they have more information. Its funny how many wonderful Pakistani artists of yesteryears so easily slip through our minds.

  25. January 3rd, 2007 2:55 am

    [...] Waheed Murad, as you can see, is in his ‘Elvis Presley of Pakistan’ mode here. For another glimpse of that mood see the video in our previous post on Waheed Murad. By way of a parting note, I should add that even though I have expressed my own bias against what I have called the ‘hilna jullna’ style of singing I am not only not averse to but am actually partial to a good ‘performance’, as long as the singing is not compromised by the ‘hilna julna’. This video is not just nostalgic but also meets that test of fun performance combined with good singing. internet advertising [...]

  26. layla says:
    February 23rd, 2007 11:53 am

    Thankyou for up loading information about Benjamin Sisters, im to young to say their songs have bought memories back as i wasnt around when they were popular, not that im saying they aint now, iv heard some of their songs and they have beautiful voices and der song collection is quite impressible, i remember reading someone mentioned one of them died, how did they die? and which one was it? it breaks ones heart when you see people spliting up like that. but i guess its part of life… thanks once again for loading info about them. cheerz

  27. Dean says:
    March 12th, 2007 3:49 am

    Adil, in your article you mentioned wondering where the Benjamin sisters are nowadays. Well if it helps, their older brother now lives here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, practicing real estate. If would you like to contact him the telephone number is (780) 450-6300 and his web address is: Good luck. Dean

  28. Pam says:
    May 21st, 2007 8:13 pm

    [quote comment="35319"]Thankyou for up loading information about Benjamin Sisters, im to young to say their songs have bought memories back as i wasnt around when they were popular, not that im saying they aint now, iv heard some of their songs and they have beautiful voices and der song collection is quite impressible, i remember reading someone mentioned one of them died, how did they die? and which one was it? it breaks ones heart when you see people spliting up like that. but i guess its part of life… thanks once again for loading info about them. cheerz[/quote]
    Just to let you know by the grace of god all of them are very much alive and doing well.I know since I grew up in the house next to theirs and my brother and his family are still their next door neighbour .2 of them still live in Mission compund even after they got married the youngest Shabana is in Dubai,she is married and very happy.

  29. Pam says:
    May 21st, 2007 8:31 pm

    [quote comment="37454"]Adil, in your article you mentioned wondering where the Benjamin sisters are nowadays. Well if it helps, their older brother now lives here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, practicing real estate. If would you like to contact him the telephone number is (780) 450-6300 and his web address is: Good luck. Dean[/quote]

    Hi Dean
    Benjamin sisters have lots of Boy cousins but they do not have a brother,the brother you are mentioning is possibly their Masi’s son who lives in Canada(mothers sisters son)Who actually got married to the second sister they are now divorced
    Togathere they are 4 sisters
    Doing pretty well in their married lives and their families.

  30. Jamal says:
    August 13th, 2007 1:23 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m glad that there are others that adore the Benjamin sisters as much as I do. I was only 3 when my Nana-ji brought the Silver Jubilee VHS Set from Pakistan and my mum said that I was constantly watching the Benjamin Sisters and enjoying the music.

    About their performance, in my opinion, if I had to sing quite difficult and in some instances classical based songs in front of the original singer and music director then I would also be a bit nervous and look a bit rigid. It is to their credit that in the song ‘Kahan tak sunoge kahan tak sunao’ Master Inayat is in the audience and is clearly impressed with their rendition.

    If anyone is in touch with them (Pam) please let them know they still have a following and a fan base. There is not a day that doesn’t go by when I do not listen to their songs.

    Long live the Benjamin Sisters

  31. beena benjamin says:
    October 11th, 2007 4:35 am

    dear all,
    it was a pleasure looking at the comments our fans have made to us.well for your information, i am beena benjamin,one of the benjamin sisters. Iam the one who got married and went to canada, the eldest nerissa is in pakistan and shabana is in dubai. we miss our singing and we know there are lots of people who like and adore our singing and want us to come back, but this is not possible as now nerissa and shabana are busy with their household activities and im working in a reputable tv channel. Anyways i think this is enough for today. Once again thanks to all our fans out there, hope to see ur comments on and off on this page.

  32. ayesha sajid says:
    October 11th, 2007 7:21 am

    This is really embaressing for me to ask at this forum and i know some people may take this for gossip mongering but maybe some one will put this to rest for me once and for all ….

    as teens we were all great fans of Benjamin Sisters but later on I heard that Madam Noor Jehan ( pls no offence to her memory or her status as a legend ) was a little annoyed with the sisters for copying her songs and getting fame from them. It was also heard that she had a bit to do with them being banned from the television.
    True or false ??

    ( I have my fingers crossed for being bashed on this forum !)

  33. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    October 11th, 2007 1:11 pm

    Beena Banjamin,
    since your group was basically dicovered with TV, probly late
    60s or early 70s, although that period when our music
    started to convert to electric organ, guitar, bongos, electric
    pianos, was a bit strange for a staunch classical and semi classical, & thumris, Ghazals fanatic like myself, but indeed,the songs that you girls had chosen was very cleverly selected, the bests among the most popular, thats it.
    Nice hearing from you beena, Pakistan zindabad

  34. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    October 11th, 2007 1:21 pm


    Of course it is gossip mongering, and you have all
    the registered rights to indulge in it, time to time, nothing
    harmful so far, I have just sent an e-mail to Madame
    and the reply is :

    I swear upon Tahera Sayyed that I have never hindered
    any time the Benjamin mothers of today. To whome it may

  35. b bano says:
    November 19th, 2007 3:00 pm

    I think the ultimate word on the Benjamin Sisters was said one of the sketches in Silver Jubilee itself.
    It was the programme where Sabri brothers were guests (remember their long hair?).
    Well, they turned up for the show with brand new (short).
    Sketch went something like this,
    Q:_”Woh bayi, maine suna ke Sabri brothers en baal katwa liye hain?”
    A: “Han woh bahut pareshaN thhe, jabhee mahalle me nikalte thhe to log yahi kaha karte thhe, -Benjamin sisters jaa rahin hain, Benjamin sisters jaa rahin Hain…”

    P.S. I have a Silver Jubilee cassette that mixes songs with sketches.

  36. Nisha says:
    February 7th, 2008 10:55 pm

    Hi Everyone
    I have been listening to the songs sung by The Benjamin Sister and really enjoy them but I am not able to recognize Beena Benjamin in the you tube videos……can anyone help me with that?


  37. robin says:
    February 25th, 2008 8:20 am

    Have found pic of Benjamin Sisters with Patsy cline {young} at WJAR radio station autographed by all on back could this be authentic?

  38. Bilal Aziz says:
    November 29th, 2008 1:21 am

    Asalamu alikum to all,

    Hey, Adil Najam first of all thanks for this post. After going throut it and all the comments, i recall my young-hood, i recall all that time period, when watching TV (ptv) was a great pleasure and also a get together of all the family members, that time was great, TV plays a very important role in development of socity, harmony, love and care for others. The songs, TV shows and dramas were awesome.

    I miss all that time, and faces of that time, esp. Benjamin Sisters. I wish them a very happy and prosperous life, where ever they are, I wish they live happily.

    Allah Hafiz.

  39. Kazz says:
    December 6th, 2008 1:50 pm

    Hi. Good old memories. I would really liked benjimen sisters, and wondered where they disappeared. If some one knows, please can you share it with us here.

  40. Hashmi says:
    June 24th, 2009 5:58 am

    Agree wholeheartedly with the praise. The Benjamin sisters are a part of my memories.. lovely sweet ones all revolving around us with our mom and their music.. Thanks for this post, it has brought back so much that was long hidden. By the way, it was great to read that they’re well and happy. May they always stay so.

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