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

  1. israr says:


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