Music and Melodies

Pakistan inherits a rich music, which is an amalgamation of Arabic, Persian, Afghani and Indian musical compositions. The basic music remains the classical form, which produced some of the greatest singers of the Indian sub continent, like Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and his family - which has now entered into the third generation. For classical /light classical music, names like Roshan Ara Begum, Ustad Salamat and Nazakat Ali Khan, Ghulam Ali, Farida Khanum, Munni Begum and Tina Sani are worth mentioning.
The religious chores take many shades from Qawwali - wherein a band of singers (locally known as "Qawwals") sing religious poetry. The groups is equipped with traditional Tabla, Harmonium and the tabla beat is joined by clapping by the secondary group members. Ghulam Farid Sabri qawwals and Aziz Mian are perhaps the best qawwals Pakistan ever had. However, it was the music maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who changed the traditional concept of qawwali, played with the harmonium and tablas, and incorporated western musical instruments and gave a new dimension to the traditional qawwali. Alas, the internationally renowned maestro did not live long.


Left: Ghulam Farid Sabri Qawwal (Bhar do Jholi Meri) - Rifht: Aziz Mian Qawal (Teri Soorat)

Qawwals typically consist of a lead vocalist, two back-up vocalists and any number of percussionists. Qawwalis are traditionally led by a sheikh and are meant to help the audience realize the mystical ideals of Sufi Islam. Amir Khusrau is said to have invented qawwali in the 13th century; the legendary poet and composer is also said to have invented the tabla (a set of two small drums) and sitar. The idea of music (''sama'') inspiring an understanding and love for the divine and communication with spiritual guides is known from at least the 9th century.


Legendary Folk Singers- Left:Faiz Muhammad Baloch (late) - Right: Alam Lohar (late)

The folk music differs from province to province and can be clearly differentiated, which is embodiment of the true aspirations and culture of that particular province. Some legendry names in folk singing are Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Aalam Lohar, Faiz Muhammad Baloch, Pathanay Khan, Allan Faqir, Reshman, Abida Perveen, Shazia Khushk and many more. Lately, Aalam Lohar's son Arif Lohar has taken over from where his father left - but legends are legends.

The qawwali and folk music besides, the most popular is the music composed for the songs of our feature films. Although, each province has its own films, but Urdu and Punjabi songs are widely listened to all across the country. Some of the great Pakistani singers include the legendary Noor Jehan, Mala, Mehdi Hassan, Ahmed Rushdi, Runa Laila,  Akhlaq Ahmed, Saleem Raza, Firdosi Begum and Naseem Begum.


Left: Jeevay Pakistan by Shehnaz Begum - Right: Rang Laye Ga Shaheddon Ka Lahoo (Noor Jahan)

National songs have played an important role in the history of Pakistan, specially during the wars with India. The 1965 Indo-Pak war brings back nostalgia when melodies of Noor Jahan, Masood Rana, Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Nasim Begum and many more rasied the morale of the Pakistan armed Forces. Likewise, in 1971 war Shehnaz Begum's Jeevay Pakistan and Sohni Dharti were sang along by masses.

Pakistan film industry had some of the finest music directors like Nisar Bazmi, G A Chishti, Khalil Ahmed, Khawaja Khurshid Anwar and Sohail Rana. The musical scores of Urdu film "Arman" and Punjabi film "Heer Ranjha" will be long remembered.

The rock and pop music has its inroads in Pakistan as well. Alamgir from Karachi introduced pop in late 70s, closely followed by Shehki. There also emerged a sweet melodious voice of Nazia Hassan along with her brother Zohaib, who captured the hearts of the entire nation as once the Carpenters did. Nazia sang a number of famous songs - but her life did not allow her time to sing more. Then there was a vacuum for sometime. But now pop and rock are at their best. Janoon group is most famous among the youth.


Left: Alamgir (The Pioneer of Pop Music in Pakistan) - Right: Nazia Hassan (First female Pop Singer)

Others soloists like Najam Sheraz, Faakhir, Ali Haider, Atif, Shehzad Roy and others. After Nazia Hassan, lately Hadiqa Kiyani has emerged as former's replacement. Her presence gave cue to Fareha Pervez, Humaira Arshad and many to also come forward and take their place on the stage. Now all across the country, rock band and pop singers perform live and display their skills much to the amusement of the youth. One name remains to be mentioned - Abrar ul Haq - who has mainly concentrated on Punjabi songs. His typical style and poetry coupled with patches of recent times make his music unique and popular.

 Pakistan’s First Girl Pop Band Creates Waves

Recently, a Pakistani all-girl pop band - Zeb and Haniya - is creating quite a stir with the Pakistani youth. They recently debuted their first album Chup ("Quiet" in Urdu) much to their delight as it was hailed by all major Pakistani reviewers. Breaking stereotypes, Zeb and Haniya are becoming a living and vivid example of how much more there is to the Pashtun sensibility than the images of gun-toting renegades. Their music is soft with a lot of blues influence and some eclectic pop flavour. That may account for all the hype surrounding Zeb and Haniya, Pakistan's first all-female music band. Despite the growing threat of Talibanisation across the country, most Pakistanis remain a liberal and tolerant lot. For women it is another matter altogether - raised eyebrows are the least possible obstacle. Some have broken the barrier, none more so than the late Nazia Hassan, who took the sub-continental music scene by storm with her pop music in the early 1980s. But, like all other professions in the country, music remains male-dominated. "Pakistani women do face problems and discrimination, but I think we are strong enough to stand up for ourselves. "As musicians, I think this is especially clear when people get to know we are from Pakistan." While the girls work as a team when it comes to the music, Zeb says Haniya is the main music writer and sings in a few of the songs on the album. So far they seem to have struck all the right chords as the praise keeps on coming from the media.
( Reference )

Salim Raza has been among the earlier male playback singers of Pakistan, who during his life time ruled the Urdu songs of Pakistani music. He sang over two thousand memorable songs for six hundred movies. Amongst his most popular songs was: "Yaro mujhe ma'af rakho (saat lakh), of which 100,000 gramophone records were sold and he won a  a silver disc from the EMI recording company in 1960. His other famous songs include "Jan-e-Baharan, Jab Raat Dhali, Husan ko chand jawani"  etcetera.
Few would know that the famous na'at "Shahay Madina" was originally sung by Saleem. During his later stage of life, went to Canada, where at the age of 52, he breathed his last in 1983.

Amanat Ali Khan, a name in classical music never to be forgotten. He along with his brother Fateh would mesmerize the audience whenever the duo performed live. He was a true singer and left a rich music unmatched forever. His "ghazals" and national songs are still being copied by many new artists. Some of his famous songs include "Inshah jee abh kooch karo, aa meray piyar ki khusbu, aye watan piyre watan" and many more. His legacy would always remain. Although, his two sons Asad and Shafqat have been in singing for quite a long time and have made their own standing, but have been unable to be a match of their legendry father.

mehdiMehdi Hassan started his career on 29 June 1956 when he sang for film "Shikar". His rose to fame when he sang Faiz Ahmed Faiz's ghazal "Guloon main rang bharay" in 1958. Born in 1935 to Azeem Khan who himself was a great musician, he started singing at the age of six. Thereafter he sang on till very recently when he discontinued due to his illness. He had been awarded with the President's Pride of Performance award.


Noor Jehan - a legend not to be forgotten for her melodious voice and contribution to music in Pakistan, A few words her cannot would be injustice to her. Read exclusive page on her.


This page was created on 1 January 2005 / 8 September 2009

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