Iqbal Bano (1935-2009): Payaal Mein Geet Hain

Posted on April 21, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, People
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Adil Najam

The magical voice of Iqbal Bano was silenced by death today.

The magical voice of Iqbal Bano will live on in our hearts forever.

Running this blog on a daily basis is not an easy task in these dark dark days. Having had to write as many obituaries (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, etc.) as we have had to has made the task only more draining to the soul.

Today was already not a good day for Pakistan when it started. It became all the more unbearable with the death of legendary singer Iqbal Bano. May she rest in peace.

Shahab Ansari writing in The News:

The last of the iconic woman singers of Pakistan and internationally acknowledged legendary artiste Iqbal Bano, who was widely known for immortalising Faiz Ahmed Faiz famous poems, died at the Ittefaq Hospital Tuesday. Iqbal Bano, 74, has left behind an unforgettable trail of thousands of immortal melodies since the day she started her singing career at a debut concert at the Lahore Arts Council back in 1957.

She was sick for quite some time and at 5am she was taken to the hospital, where she died at 3 pm the same day. Iqbal Bano married a landlord in 1952 and had two sons Humayun and Afzal and a daughter Maleeha. Her daughter Maleeha and her son Humayun were in Lahore at the time of her burial. Afzal could not attend the funeral of her mother since he had left for Saudi Arabia the same day at 3 am. Iqbal Bano was buried at 9.30 pm at the Garden Town graveyard near her home. A very small number of people mainly close relatives, neighbours and friends of the family attended her funeral while no one turned up from the film industry and the world of singing, except Shaukat Ali the folk singer, to pay last respects to the lady who ruled the world of singing for over five decades.

Iqbal Bano was born in 1935 in Delhi, India – died on April 21, 2009 Lahore, Pakistan) was an outstanding Ghazal singer and a singer of both classical and modern ghazals. Bano was brought up and raised in Delhi. She was musically talented, with a sweet and appealing voice. From a young age, Bano developed a love for music. It was a crucial moment of her life when her friend’s father told her father, “My daughters do sing reasonably well, but Iqbal is blessed in singing. She will become a big name if you begin her training.” Because of Bano’s love of music and persuasion from others, her father allowed her to study music.

In Delhi, she studied under Ustad Chaand Khan of the Delhi Gharana, an expert in all kinds of pure classical and light classical forms of vocal music. He instructed her in pure classical music and light classical music within the framework of classical forms of ‘thumri’ and ‘dadra’. She was duly initiated ‘Gaandaabandh shagird’ of her Ustad. He forwarded her to All India Radio, Delhi, where she sang on the radio. In 1952, a landlord from Pakistan, married seventeen-year-old Iqbal Bano with a promise that he would never stop her music, but try to promote her. Her husband fulfilled his promise until his death in 1980. After her husband’s death, Bano moved to Garden Town, Lahore. It was observed that her temperament was particularly suited to vocal genres like ‘thumri’, ‘dadra’ and ‘ghazal’.

Iqbal Bano was invited by Radio Pakistan for performances, she being an accomplished artiste. She was considered a specialist in singing the works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. She has given such musical relevance to the ghazals of Faiz, that Bano and Faiz are apparently inseparable in popular imagination. Because of Faiz imprisonment and hatred of the Pakistani government towards him, Bano roused a strong crowd of 50,000 people in Lahore by singing his passionate Urdu nazm, “Hum Dekhenge”.

Iqbal Bano could sing Persian ghazals with the same fluency as Urdu. She was always applauded in Iran and Afghanistan for her Persian ghazals. The Iranians and Afghans thronged to her shows in large numbers to hear her ghazals in their mother tongue. Once she said in an interview, that she had a collection of 72 beautiful Persian ghazals. Before 1979, there was a festival of culture called Jashn-e-Kabul every year in Afghanistan. Iqbal Bano regularly received an invitation to this annual event. She was known for singing a new Persian ghazal each time she appeared. The king of Afghanistan liked her recital very much. Once, on such an occasion, the king was so pleased with her ghazals that he presented her with a golden vase in appreciation of her music.

Music lovers have noted some similarities between Bano and Begum Akhtar, especially some marked resemblances in their style of singing. Iqbal Bano does not consider the contemporary ghazals as ghazals at all. Her recitals stick to the old classical style that lays more stress on the ‘raag’ purity. Basically, a ghazal singer, Iqbal Bano has also sung many memorable Pakistani film songs. She has provided soundtrack songs for famous Urdu films like Gumnaam (1954), Qatil (1955), Inteqaam (1955), Sarfarosh (1956), Ishq-e-Laila (1957), and Nagin (1959). She won the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Pride of Performance) medal in 1974 for her contributions to the world of Pakistani music.

For many people the music of Iqbal Bano is personified in her rendition of Dasht-i-Tanhayee (video clip below). It should not be a surprise to readers of this blog that for me it is Hum Daikhain Gay which embodies Iqbal Bano’s music. The words were from Faiz Ahmad Faiz but but the soul of the song was captured by Iqbal Bano as by no other. We have carried my own interpretation of her rendition many times on these pages. Today, we carry Iqbal Bano singing the song in all its – and her – glory. Singing it as only she could:

I remember hearing it live at the very first “Faiz Mela” in Lahore. It was not then the anthem it would later become. Indeed, it became an anthem that evening. I don’t remember how long she sang it but it seemed to go on forever. I do not think she or anyone else had planned it that way. She sang it as just another song. But it never was just another song. Nor were those just some other days. This was at the height of the Zia era and that gave all sorts of new meaning to the song.

The crowd went mad in ecstasy. Everytime she tried to end the song, they chanted along with her, “hum daikhain gay… hum daikhain gay.” It was an amazing rendition of some amazing poetry for an amazing moment. And everything came together in that magical moment. My memory may well have transformed the moment into what it has become for me. But, then, that is the magic of great poetry, and of great music.

Thinking of that magical moment, of the moments that were to follow when I was lucky enough to meet her – and of the fact that she is no more – swells up my emotions. So, let me not even try to write all the thoughts and feelings that coming flooding into by mind but which I am unable to say because of these gushing emotions. Maybe, later, I will be able to say what I feel. But, for now, let me just end with the few images and sounds of Iqbal Bano in this post and the hope that we all can celebrate her life rather than just mourn her death.

36 Comments on “Iqbal Bano (1935-2009): Payaal Mein Geet Hain

  1. BuSHRA HANEEF says:
    April 21st, 2009 10:02 pm

    Oooh. How sad.

    Devastating News.

    May she rest in peace.

  2. salman n malik says:
    April 21st, 2009 10:13 pm

    Truly a loss for Pakistan’s already shrinking artist community.
    Iqbal Bano – may she rest in peace.

  3. Adnan Ahmad says:
    April 21st, 2009 10:27 pm

    aik pal mein wahan se hum uthey
    bathney mein jahan zamaaney lage

    What do I write here? Sad news, great loss.. more cliches. Pakistan may not see an artist of her stature again. It’s difficult for one to describe her vocal. I am haunted each time I hear her sing the first line above. On a petty note, this blog owes something to Iqbal Bano.

    Dasht-e-Tanhai mein aey jaan-e-jahan larzaa’n hein
    teri avaaz ke saaye, tere honthon ke saraab
    yun guman hota hai
    garche hai abhi subah-e-firaaq
    dhal gaya hijr ka din
    aa bhi gaye vasl ki raat

  4. shahzad shameem says:
    April 21st, 2009 11:42 pm

    Everyone has to go but some goes to be REMEMBER for many many YEARS.

    Think do we have played such, our PART. There are hundered to be Remember and many are on way to give us such Chance, the point now here, to remember them is not Sufficient. The thing will bring change in our LIVES is to follow them.

  5. April 21st, 2009 11:53 pm

    Inna Lillah e wa inna ilaihi raagioon.

  6. Q.S. Salman says:
    April 22nd, 2009 12:19 am

    Innalilah-e-wa inna ilahey rajeyoon

  7. Parveen says:
    April 22nd, 2009 12:53 am

    So sad to read this. Although she led a fruitful and good life of achievement.

    More sad because we know that Mehdi Hassan sahib is also on his deathbed.

  8. Fawad says:
    April 22nd, 2009 1:37 am

    It is a great loss. Another wonderful artist is no more.

    I have one quibble with Shahab Ansari’s piece in The News. As big a loss as Iqbal Bano it is unfair to call her the last iconic woman singer of Pakistan. In Iqbal Bano’s age cohort, Farida Khanum is still alive and she is certainly in the same iconic category as her. This is not to mention younger luminaries like Abida Parveen. I wrote my own tribute to the wonderful Iqbal Bano at

  9. A for [pine]Apple says:
    April 22nd, 2009 5:39 am

    what a loss… May her soul R.I.P

  10. Sajid Khan says:
    April 22nd, 2009 7:21 am

    Iqbal Bano’s another legend

    ulfat ki nai manzil ko chala,
    tu banhen dal k banhon mein
    dil torne wale dekh k chal,
    ham bhi to pare hain rahon mein

    kya kya na jafayen dil pe sahin,
    par tum se koi shikwa na kiya
    is jurm ko bhi shamil kar lo,
    mere masum gunahon mein

    jub chandni raton mein tum ne,
    khud hamse kiya iqrar-e-wafa
    phir aj hain ham kyon begane,
    teri beraham nigahon mein

    ham bhi hain wahin, tum bhi ho wahi,
    ye apni-apni qismat hai
    tum khel rahe ho khushiyon se,
    ham dub gaye hain ahon mein

    Alas both Qateel Shifai and Iqbal Bano are no more in this world.

    Death of a legend

  11. Taimur says:
    April 22nd, 2009 7:52 am

    So sad to hear this. She had a unique voice and style. Unmatched. But we have so many great songs from her to remember her by. None better than ‘Hum Daikhain Gay.’

  12. Afsandyar says:
    April 22nd, 2009 8:45 am

    When I think of Iqbal Bano I immediately think of Faiz, but there was so much more to her than that.

    I have been humming “Ulfat ki naee raaho pay challa” since last night.

    What a wonderful singer she was.

    may she rest in peace.

  13. Amara says:
    April 22nd, 2009 8:48 am

    Sad news. May she live in Janat and may her songs live on forever.

  14. Yahya says:
    April 22nd, 2009 8:51 am

    Nice tribute to a legend.

    Love the selection of songs you have added in video.

    Specially like the old recording of Dasht i Tanhaiyee you have added

  15. aTii says:
    April 22nd, 2009 9:10 am

    Ahh.. What a sad thing to hear. She had special place in my heart, many of her songs bring back so many memories. Just like an old Khushboo brings back certain memories, her voice brings back certain past moments of joy.

    May her soul rest in peace..!! Ameen..

    tu lakh chale re gori tham tham ke..
    payal mein geet hain cham cham ke..

    yeh jeewan bhar ka rog sakhee
    tohe paglee kahein ge log sakhee

    mein ne bhee kia tha piyar kabhee
    ayee thee yahee jhankaar kabhee

    ab geet mein gatee hoon gham ke….

    Her voice was unique yet so powerful….

  16. Umar Shah says:
    April 22nd, 2009 10:38 am

    Iqbal Bano you will remain a legend for Pakistani’s. Allah aap ko jannat ata karay. Aameen.

  17. Sonu says:
    April 22nd, 2009 10:51 am

    Iqbal Bano was one of my favorites. Listening to her singing dasht-e-tanhaii mein fills my heart with such strong emotions and brings back memories; many joyous, others of grief, but all deep and strong nonetheless.

    inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

  18. Alex says:
    April 22nd, 2009 10:56 am

    We’ve created an online tribute to Iqbal Bano so fans can leave memories of her:

  19. Our loss says:
    April 22nd, 2009 11:44 am

    inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

    Singers of Iqbal Bano’s caliber come by very rarely. Her contributions to classical and semi-classical music are hard to match.

    Allah mughferut farmaye un ki and un kay darajaat buland farmaye. Ameen.

  20. Faraz says:
    April 22nd, 2009 2:39 pm

    Today music in Pakistan passed away yet one more time. May Bano’s soul rest in peace.

  21. LidaLIQA says:
    April 22nd, 2009 5:13 pm

    Pay homage and respect to Artists when they are alive!!!

    Mehdi Hasan is on his death bed and needs money.

    why not show him some gratitude and pay for his medical expenses.

  22. Roshan says:
    April 22nd, 2009 5:21 pm

    Hum Dekhain Gay……..

    Both the singer and lyricist are not among us anymore but still the HOPE which they imbued among all of us is ever lasting…..

    She was one of my favorite singers and always her voice in Ghazal was matchless among women ghazal gaiks..
    May her soul rest in peace.

  23. zia m says:
    April 22nd, 2009 8:22 pm

    My deepest condolences to her family.
    May her soul rest in peace.

  24. AHMAD says:
    April 23rd, 2009 12:43 am

    What a great loss. Looks like all news from pakistan these days is bad.

  25. Anwer says:
    April 24th, 2009 10:20 pm

    A beautiful remembrance by Kishwar Nahid:

  26. ASAD says:
    April 25th, 2009 4:14 am

    THIS is a great national loss… but her songs will live

    May she rest in peace

  27. m.asif says:
    April 25th, 2009 7:39 am

    alas! one more musical legend departed.

  28. naseem says:
    April 26th, 2009 8:53 pm

    Today I found about about the passing of one the top singer of the Urdu language, she is gone, but she will live forever in my hart as long as I live. I left Pakistan in the late 60′s, but Pakistani music stayed with me, and Ms. Bano was one of my favorite geet and ghazals singer.

    I hope, some one soon assemble the collection of her best work on CDs (not the Pakistani home made) to celebrate her life.

    Mr. Najam, thank you for providing the opportunity to say few words.

  29. Pankaj says:
    April 28th, 2009 7:56 am

    listening to the live recording of Hum Dekhenge (at the Faiz Mela), who is to believe that Pakistan & India are two nations.

  30. Aman Tur says:
    April 28th, 2009 10:22 pm

    Oh dear, I read this from my google reader feed of all things pakistani. Cann’t tell how saddened I’m by the news of the demise of the legend. Though she has left the world bodily, her soul, her music will be with us always.
    May Allah grant her eternal peace.

  31. taariq M. hassan says:
    May 5th, 2009 8:06 am

    ya Khudaa,haeiy haiey, bahoot afsos ki baat hai.

  32. Muhammad Shariq says:
    June 16th, 2009 7:03 am

    Iqbal Bano (May Allah rest her in peace).

    I don’t want to sound dramatic, but indeed after reading this dreadful news of her passing away some two months ago, has left me devastated as far as my musical world goes. No amount of words whatsoever spoken in her praise can do the justice. She was an artist par excellence. A singer who provided countless moments of joy and merriment to millions of listeners like myself.

    My most cherished memories of listening to music lies with listening her while strolling alone on busy New York streets and avenues. Her music was one of the things that kept me tied to my homeland and finally made me return to this beautiful peace of land – Pakistan. I still remember vividly how her renditions of Dasht-e-Tanhai, Hum dekhaingay, Payal mein geet hain and numerous other ghazals kept me mesmerized while wandering on streets searching for my own identity. Have heard several of her renditions of Dasht-e-Tanhai, and everytime while listening them in NY makes me feel as if she is singing it for me, for my solitude, for my lonliness.

    I was not fortunate enough to listen to her performing live and now it will be a thing to regret for the rest of my life.

    It is such a shame the way we honor our artists and heros. Specially after reading that almost no one (except Shaukat Ali) attended her funeral makes me even more sad, as she indeed was alone in her desert of solitude.

    The following goes for you M’am from the deepest beds of my heart:

    Is qadar pyaar se ai jaan-e jahaan rakkhaa hai
    dil ke rukhsaar pe
    is vaqt teri yaad ne haath
    yun guman hota hai
    garche hai abhi subah-e-firaaq
    dhal gaya hijr ka din
    aa bhi gaye vasl ki raat.


  33. azeem says:
    September 15th, 2009 6:26 am

    I recorded her live several times, and I have recorded other Pakistani Mega Artists but none [except Asad Amnat Ali, I have recorded him live too] could come close in macthing the scale of her voice, male or female.

    Both could easily exceed 105 db SPL on my Nakamichi Recording System. These sessions were usally 4 to 5 hours long and I had my headphones on most of the time. This is like your ear being 12 to 18″ from the artist.

    I still have those 10.5″ Reel-To-Reel tapes.

    It will take many, many years fill out……
    or maybe never?


  34. AMITABH says:
    April 21st, 2010 2:56 am

    A legend never dies
    Iqbal Bano
    ( 1935- 21 April 2009 Indian and Pakistani.):
    A Tribute

    Rarely has just one song, in a single performance, Immortalized a singer. In the case of Iqbal Bano’s rendition of Faizs’ ghazal ‘Hum Dekhenge’ in Lahore, in front of more than fifty thousand people, rousing them to a frenzy unparallel while daring the oppressive regime of Zia Ul Haq…
    ‘Jab arze khuda he taabe se Sab but uthwaye jaayengee
    Hum ahle safa mardood e haram masnad pe bithaye jayenge
    Sab taj Uchhale jayenge sab takht giraye jayenge..Hum Dekhenge…’
    was such a moment. For those blessed people who were present at that venue the moment has passed. But she will no doubt live amongst us for ever through her magical voice, and music.
    The privileged who have heard her music are aware that even without that one evening, or that performance, the wealth of her music, she will always be remembered as one of the ‘Greats’
    Her voice is melodious no doubt, her expertise phenomenal, her performances soul stirring; but towering above them all is her virtuosity in being able to transfer her belief in what she sings to the listener, whicch makes her one of a kind.
    Her repertoire from Persian to ‘ Brij Bhashaa,’ her perfect understanding of Urdu and her selection of poetry, displays versatility beyond compare, it is not just music, it is more: If one did not know it would be hard to believe it is the same person. A sublime mixture of melody and heart wrenching feeling. She often makes one believe that the poet had written the composition just for her.
    Need I say more?
    To be able to bring out the true meaning of Sufism, through the poetry of Persian poets, notably the poem by Nizami (1141-1209): ‘Mar ba ghaamza…. is a divine gift. The ease with which she slips into the subtle nuances of ‘Brij Bhasha’; the famous Thumri…’Ab ke saawan to ghar aa ja is just one example of something which only the naturally gifted can do. It is a measure of her understanding of Urdu poetry that she was equally at home with Ghazals and Nazms of Faiz or Ghalib. In fact some people go to extent and say, “She has single handedly taken Faiz to the common man, and has made this ghazal ( Hum Dekhenge ) into an antehem”. Even the great Begum Akhtar failed to rouse such emotions.
    It is not important, where she was born, or who taught her, it is equally unnecessary to chronicle her life or list her achievements. What is meaningful is how her music has touched the very core of the sensibilities of people who have heard her, which makes me wonder if theirs would have been the same if they had not heard her? Mine certainly would not have been. To change a famous ‘Naat’, a bit, and at the risk of being called a heretic, I would say:
    “Jalwa kisika ho ya ghazal kisi ki ho
    Aye Jannat tujhe salaam, Bano tujhe sunnee ke bad
    Sajda Karoon tumhe to Kafir kahenge log
    kisi aur ko sun na hai haram, Iqbal tumhee sun ne ke bad”

    I am sure that the revolutionaries from the jungles of Bastar, introduced to her famous ghazal by Arundhati Roy, to the forlorn ‘Expats’ from the subcontinent in New York City think the same.
    I am using today just as an excuse to write about her, because people like Iqbal Bano, are not remembered just on their birthdays, nor on the day which reminds us that nothing new would be forthcoming henceforth.
    Headlines, obituaries, sentiments expressed by many on the net bade farewell to her in 2009. ‘Good Bye Iqbal Bano’ …….most of them said however to one like me who was introduced to her music after 21 April 2009, it is WELCOME Iqbal Bano. You have moved ahead, but have passed on your legacy of optimism to not only this generation but to generations to come, not only in Pakistan, but to all those who believe in the beauty of God wherever they might be, and whatever the meaning of Divine is to them. The very fact that a 60 year old Hindu, living in solitude in Bhopal, salutes her brings to naught the harangue of power seekers who talk of Hindu -Muslim rivalry, and the India- Pakistan divide.
    Sadly there will be no more live performances, but her recordings will continue to bring to life, time and again, the memories of a singer who took Pakistan by storm, and who has left behind a legacy, for all music lovers to savour till there is music on this planet.
    I am positive that she is, at this very moment, sitting on the ‘Masnad’, and mesmerizing God himself with the purity of her music.

    Amitabh. 11th Aril 2010

  35. israr says:
    February 21st, 2011 4:02 am


    How old are those recordings? Do you have any plans to digitize them?

  36. israr says:
    February 21st, 2011 4:05 am


    I can help in digitizing that work, please contact me at

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