Pakistani Rap: One Song Wonder, Yaqoob Atif Bulbula

Posted on February 6, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Music, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Adil Najam

Pani da Bulbula represents original Pakistani rap. A wondrous and catchy rhythm  that can plant itself inside your head and keep playing on and on forever.Even when you want it to stop!

I do not know if it was his original creation or not, but for years the song has been synonymous with Yaqoob Atif. In fact, Yaqoob Atif has been synonymous with the song. So much so that his named changed to “Yaqoob Atif Bulbula.” (See: Cover of his 1979 LP from EMI Pakistan).

I realized that this was not a simple affectation when – sometimes in the mid-1980s – I was introduced to Mr. Yaqoob at Lahore’s PTV station (where he had become a bit of a fixture) as “Bulbula Sahib.” Both the person introducting him and Bulbula Sahib himself took this to be the perfectly appropraite and natural introduction. By then, that was his name. It was not a laqab, not a cheR, not an affection. That is what he was. He was his song. That is what this song meant to him and his life. It was his life. Here, indeed, was a one song wonder.

The song, of course, evolved as did its ever smiling and ever mischevous Bulbula Sahib. That was part of its charm. That is the charm of so much ‘rap.’ The song morphed to the audience it was played to and to the times it was played in. The words changed, the examples evolved, but the simple rhythm and beat remained the same. And it was that beat which was combined to make the song the wonder that it was.

But the sheen of one song wonders lasts only that long. And so too with this song. So many remember it. And, yet, so many have forgotten it too, until they are reminded of it. It did, however, get a major revival back in the early 1980s, when it was featured in an episode of the blockbuster Waris series. The look on young Firdous Jamal’s face is one that expresses the song well – you start by asking yourself in slight disdain “What is this?” and then move on in admiration to “What is this!” At least I do (not, again, the variation in the words):

Like others, I to lost touch with the song. Yaqoob Atif Bulbula, of course, did not. He kept it, even trying – in what seems to be a more recent recording – to come up with an English version of Pani Da Bulbula. The recoding is rather bad – and at some levels the song is rather sad – but its worth a look… and maybe a smile. That, I think, is all that Bulbula sahib really wanted to invoke. A smile:

P.S. ATP has written about this song before in the story of one inspirational Pakistani who also defines himself with this song. And you may also enjoy Khalid Abbas Dar’s amazing rendition of another form of Pakistani Rap!

11 Comments on “Pakistani Rap: One Song Wonder, Yaqoob Atif Bulbula”

  1. Jawed says:
    February 6th, 2011 9:24 pm


  2. HaroON says:
    February 6th, 2011 9:42 pm

    What great memories. I do remember the song but had totally forgotten it. Catchy indeed.

  3. Aliya says:
    February 6th, 2011 10:28 pm

    Give that song to coke studio – fancy set lights, swinging background singers, smart camera work – and you will have a sensation!

  4. ATP Fan says:
    February 6th, 2011 10:32 pm

    ATP phir cha gaya.
    You never fail to surprise.
    Both on the heavy intellectual stuff and the authentic Pakistaniat stuff. There is nothing like ATP.
    Thank you so much for this treasure.

  5. Baasim says:
    February 6th, 2011 10:34 pm

    Love the last one in English.
    The man is amazing in his devotion to his ‘Bulbula’.

  6. Azra says:
    February 6th, 2011 10:37 pm

    Cute. Very cute. (Specially the last one, in English).

  7. sarah says:
    February 6th, 2011 11:33 pm

    Older version has no parallel. Nonetheless, the English version is a lot of fun to watch. This song has always entertained its listeners from all backgrounds and of all ages groups.

  8. USMAN says:
    February 7th, 2011 4:56 am

    Great find, guys. Loved it. As someone said, the guy would be a cult hero if he had the right PR machine today.

  9. Asif Ali says:
    February 7th, 2011 7:22 am

    what a nostalgia just awesome
    btw same need to be done about Ptv production “fifty fifty”
    this one is my personal favorite among many

  10. Daud says:
    February 7th, 2011 7:37 am

    Had never heard this before. The song is fun. The picture you have there is even more fun. I guess the 70s were the same everywhere… love the hairstyle and suit :-)

  11. awais amin says:
    February 7th, 2011 8:03 am

    well said,,,that is his life ……wow..its really a full of enjoy for eastren youth and now for westren youth as well to stay kool,,,,,,,everything bubbel of water,,,,,,hhohohoho…pani ka bulbula ,,,hahahaha…………..but about that drama ,,,waris …it ,,,itself a big break throug for a feudralism …and we can use it now for staying kool for our generation …so now support that its a revolutionary song….belive that

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