Iqbal Banu: Ah! The agonies of success - E.1

By Anis Shakur
Saturday - February 3, 2018
ISLAMABAD: ‘As you move ahead, pass on your optimism and faith to the next generation.’ Is a statement that befits the eminent ghazal singer of yesteryear, Iqbal Banu. Banu was born in 1935 in Delhi, India. She took keen interest in music from her earlier days. Banu’s friends and family urged her father to allow her to learn music and he agreed.

Hence, Banu learned classical music, including thumri and dadra, from ustaad Chand Khan in Delhi. Later, ustaad Chand Khan recommended Banu to All India Radio, Delhi, where she sang for a while.

A Pakistani landlord was surely struck by Banu’s beauty and innocence and proposed her. Long story short, 17 year old Banu was wedded to him in 1952.

A promise made is a promise kept. Banu’s husband gave his word to her that he will never be a hindrance in her musical career. Banu’s eyes smiled with the joy of today and the promise of tomorrow.

They enjoyed a blissful married life for twenty-eight years. Banu’s better half kept his word up until his death in 1980.

Banu spend her married life in Lahore. Initially, she took music lessons from ustaad Aashiq Ali Khan and ustaad Abdul Kareem Khan.

In reality, it is only in recent years that many people have truly woken up to the fact that women can also accomplish remarkable feat as men do.

Throughout her singing career, Banu frequently recorded ghazals for Radio Pakistan. In 1954, nineteen-year-old Banu recorded her first film song. The lyrics were ‘Tu laakh chalaree gori thum, thum, kay, payal mein geet hain chham, chham, kay.’ The film ‘Gum naam,’ March 26, 1954, music, Inayat Husain, lyrics, Qateel Shifai- Saif uddin Saif. All told, it is a very heartfelt song.

The song below is an exquisite blend of torment and anguish, pain and pathos. Essentially, Banu lifted up her voice with strength and made the lyrics all the more forceful and effective:

‘Ulfat ki naye manzil ko chala tu bahain daal kay bahoan main.’ The film ‘Qaatil,’ January 22, 1955, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Inayat Husain.

Basically, Banu’s every song represents tremendous labor and endless observation on her part. Below is one example:

‘Chore hamain kis desh sidharay.’ The 1955 film ‘Inteqaam,’ music, Inayat Husain. Below is Banu’s meritorious and delightful song, which partially explains her marvelous fecundity of output by an assumed mediocrity of talent: ‘Dono diloan pay hua hai ulfat ka asar.’ The 1955 film ‘Inteqaam,’ music, Inayat Husain.

It fills ones’ heart with hope, aspiration and longing as one listens to a soulful Banu: ‘Taroan ka bhee tu maalik, ye chand bhee tera hai.’ The film ‘Sarfarosh,’ June 15, 1956, music, Rasheed Attre.

Apparently, Banu did not possess every singing ability as a child, because she did not then know what she learned later.

22-years old Banu gave her first public presentation in 1957 at Arts Council Lahore.

In the annals of Indo-pak music, it is seldom that a woman has been so loudly and widely lauded for talents in so many voices, and so many instruments. Yes, I am referring to that occasion when Banu sang Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s popular poetry, ‘Hum deikhein gey.’ Truth be said, Banu became an integral part of Faiz’s poetry.

The chief characteristic of Banu’s voice is the passion she inspired in every fan that came near her, and the utmost devotion of the admirers towards her.

Banu was brilliant in ‘Ik halki, halki, Aahat hai, ik mehka, mehka saya hai'.’ The film ‘Ishq-e-Laila,’ April 12, 1957, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Safdar Husain.

A glorious gift from the past: Banu’s singing voice created a fabulous ghazal recorded in humble circumstances 60 years ago.

‘Pareeshan raat satati hai, sitaro tum to so jaao,’ the film ‘Ishq-e-Laila, lyrics, Qateel Shifai, music, Safdar Husain.

Banu was a public singer at last to exultant countrymen: ‘O sajan bichwa bajay ray, lagee kisi say najaria.’ The 1957 film ‘Aankh ka nasha,’ music, Inayat Husain. Perhaps, composer Inayat Husain utilized Banu’s vocals considerably in ‘Aik pal bhee naheen Aaraam yahan.’ The 1957 film ‘Aankh ka nasha.’ (To be continued...)