Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It

Posted on April 17, 2008
Filed Under >Fawad, Culture & Heritage, Music, TV, Movies & Theatre
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Having grown up in Lahore in the 70’s and 80’s, the strains of lilting Punjabi melodies were always a warm and familiar presence.

Even though in middle class upwardly mobile urban families Punjabi had sadly come to be associated with rural backwardness, Punjabi music with its deep cultural roots continued to exert an influence. Even in homes where children were discouraged from all things Punjabi lest they give off a whiff of the “paindu” lower classes, times of celebration such as mehndis remained incomplete without the girls on the dholki singing a repertoire of Punjabi wedding songs.

Traditional melodies such as “Mathe Te Chamkan Waal”, “Saada Chiriyan Da Chamba Ve”, “Raat De BaaraN Wajje Aape Meri Neendar Khule”, “Mehndi TaaN Sajdi Je Nache Munde Di MaaN” sung at these functions at least familiarized young boys and girls with the music of their native soil.

I was particularly fortunate to grow up in a family where I was amply exposed to both the Punjabi language and music but many years abroad had served to obscure many of those fond memories. It is only after the internet revolution that I have rediscovered much of that music. In this post I want to share some of my favorite Punjabi singers and their music and provide a guide to some excellent sources for further enjoyment for those who may want to explore further. This is the first in a series of three planned posts and here I will focus on Punjabi Film Music.

Few now remember that until the 1970’s Pakistan had a fairly thriving film industry based in Lahore. Noor Jehan’s masterful voice so dominated Pakistan’s film music singing that it overshadowed other unjustly forgotten talents. I am particularly fond of Zubaida Khanum’s singing. Here’s a wonderful song by her composed by “Baba” G.A. Chishti from the 1957 film “Yakke Wali” in which Musarrat Nazir played the title role. The song is Resham Da Lacha Lak We. These old black & white films evoke a simpler, more innocent time and place. I feel that in many of these songs the Punjabi film heroines are portrayed as less demure figures than their contemporaries in Bombay’s films of that era. Many of these women seem to exude a rugged self confidence even within the confines of their traditionally assigned roles.

Zubaida Khanum sang some of the most popular Punjabi film songs of the 50’s and 60’s. Some of my other Zubaida Khanum favorites include AssaN Jaan Ke Meet Lai Akh Way” from the 1955 film Heer, Bundey Chandi Dey and from the film Chan Mahi.


Khawaja Khurshid AnwarMaster InayatRasheed AttreInayat Hussain Bhatti
Inayat Hussain Bhatti who hailed from Gujrat is another forgotten name today but many of his songs in the two decades after partition were enormously popular. A glance at his biography shows Bhatti’s impressively versatile personality which bucks any stereotype of a Punjabi film hero. The video below is one of my favorite Inayat Hussain Bhatti songs called Bhagan Waleo from the 1953 film Shehri Babu. This song was composed by Rashid Attrey (who along with Master Inayat Hussain and Khawaja Khurshid Anwar comprises the holy trinity of Pakistani music directors). Bhatti himself is the actor in this clip:

Some other of my Inayat Hussain Bhatti favorties include Chan Mere Makhna (popularized more recently by Shazia Manzoor) and a nice duet with Zubaida Khanum called Goray Goray Hath Kali Wang Mundaya.No post on Punjabi film music can be concluded without including a sampling from Noor Jehan’s legendary career in Punjabi film singing. Many of her songs (courtesy of singing at Mehndis) are so deeply rooted in West Punjab’s culture that they are intimately familiar even to those who have never set foot in a Pakistani cinema. Here is a personal favorite titled Chan Mahi Aa from the 1970 film Heer Ranjha composed by the master tunesmith Khurshid Anwar.

Heer Ranjha had a phenomenal soundtrack and virtually all the songs were superhits including Mein Cham Cham NachaN, Wanjhli Walarea, Rabba Wekh Laya, Kadi Aa Mil Ranjhan We and Irene Parveen’s lovely, chirpy number TooN Chor Mein Teri Chori. Here are some other Noor Jehan songs I like: Weh Sonay Deya Kangna Sauda Iko Jaya, (a wonderful song in which Anjuman truly makes Noor Jehan’s voice come alive), Tere Mukhre Da Kala Kala Til We , Jadon Holi Jai and countless more.


Fawad blogs at Written Encounters where this post was first published.

31 responses to “Punjabi Film Music: Nothing Paindu About It”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    I never really knew that she could dance like this
    She make a man want to speak Punjabi

    Kthay hun tunn? Sona, mera ghar, ghar
    (Firdaus, Noor Jehan)

    Oh baby when you talk like that
    You make a woman go mad
    So be wise and keep on
    Reading the signs of my body

    And I’m on tonight
    You know my hips don’t lie
    And I’m starting to feel it’s right
    All the attraction, the tension
    Don’t you see baby, this is perfection

    Hey girl, I can see your body moving
    And it’s driving me crazy
    And I didn’t have the slightest idea
    Until I saw you dancing

    And when you walk up on the dance floor
    Nobody cannot ignore the way you move your body, girl
    And everything’s so unexpected, the way you right and left it
    So you can keep on taking it

    Tere naal mein layian akhian (Noorjehan – Punjabi song)






    And the best

    Sun Wanjhli Di Mithri Daan Heer Ranjha Noor Jehan song

    Folks, the Punjabi movies and music has enthusasim!

    I do not know why Sultan Rahi frowns during songs. I would be smiling mile to mile if someone danced like that for me.

    I never really knew that she could dance like this
    She make a man want to speak Punjabi

    OK, that was from Shakira, my new favorite. Big fan of waka waka.

    To Youtube!

  2. Hina says:

    Very nice. Its time we appreciated this.

  3. We are proud of our veteran music directors for their immortal melodies . They are the herritage of pakistan film industry

  4. Gabaroo says:

    Pakistanis and Muslims of Bihar and UP (who say urdu is their mother tounge) have been abandoning their native culture for a long time since Mughal times. The Bihari/UP muslims somehow took their native Bhojpuri language and someohow abandoned the devangari script that the other people of the area used and adapted persian script for hindi/bhojpuri and named a new language for the muslims called urdu which is just an excuse to show they are superior to hindus and closer to the Mughals or Persians. The persian script does not even make sense for writing in hindi first off, many words can be written incorrectly and misinterpreted. Anyways later on the people of Pakistan adopted this non-native language for the people of all of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, etc. The children of all these places except I beleive Sindh MUST have their education in Urdu but not in their mother tounge which creates this inferiority complex. The child will grow up thinking that the language spoken at home isnt even taught in our schools at all so obviously Urdu is better since it will give me opportunity to succeed in this society, furthermore if I adopt English and lessen Urdu I can be even more successful! The British adopted Urdu back in the 1800s for Punjab and we still have to live with this mistake till this day except in Indian Punjab where the people took back the pride of their culture and use Punjabi for education and government functions. A perfect example of the non necessity of the persian script is by looking at Bangladesh or even Indonesia which have majority muslim populations yet their use their native scripts for their languages (The Bangladeshis still use the same bengali script the West Bengalis do for their communication, a sanskrit based script). Point being Pakistanis are ashamed of anything related to India or even their own regional culture so they will continue to differentiate themselves by using a language and foregin script for their society.

  5. Manav says:

    I know what you mean, Fawad, but its not something that is limited to Pakistan. As an Indian growing up in Delhi (I’m 21 now), I see Punjabi banished from conversations. The older generation still uses it, but only among themselves.

    And at Indian weddings, Matthay te chamkan waal and Kala doria are rapidly giving way to choreographed bollywood dancing. It’s something I’ve seen with great dismay.

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