From Allah Wasai To Madam Noor Jehan – A Legend That Every Generation Will Remember

Madam Noor Jehan
Courtesy: The Express Tribune

23rd December marked her anniversary, every person like me, who fantasizes ghazal and classical singing style, always looks up to her. I tried to write something as a tribute to Madam Noor Jehan, as we say in respect to her, I failed miserably. Since each time I listened to her songs for inspiration for my writing, I escaped from this world. I tranquilized in my thoughts as a consequence of her emotions in the songs. Listening to Madam’s songs and not drowning into the thoughts, then something is miserably wrong with you – seriously, you should cherish human soul to understand her art.

Therefore, it took me too long to write an article. That’s the level of my admiration to her – as all say; I am also her BIGGEST fan.

Noor Jehan – A Brief Biography

A diva who groomed a complete institution of art within herself was born on 21st Sep. 1926 in Kasur. Her real name is “Allah Wasai”, which was later changed to Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jehan due to her extravaganza contributions to art and music. Her family background was also deeply rooted in music since her both parents, Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi, were musicians professionally.

Early life

At the age of five, she sang in a gathering in front of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who was so impressed with her talent that he gifted her some money, and said, “Such artists are seldom born.” According to Noor Jehan, she was so young that she couldn’t comprehend that compliment. In one interview, she awed, “I spent the money and bought rewari (sweet). But, I wish I could have saved that gift.”

A Born Singer

She was a gifted singer that polished her skills further. And, as we say, diamonds are already valuables, but their value increases when they are polished. Same is the case with Madam Noor Jehan. In an interview to BBC, when she was asked about how music came into her life, she said, “Since my birth, the music was within me. At the age of 3 or 4 years, I started singing.” She further said, “People around me realized my talent and advised my parents that I should be properly taught music. So, at the age of six, I became the ‘ganda bandh shagird’ (a traditional way of tying a knotted string around the wrist as a traditional yet ceremonial way of adopting a child as a music student).”

First Singing Before Public

This God gifted diva started her music career journey by performing in a big studio of Karnani in Calcutta (British India). The film was “Pind de Kudi”. After that, she worked in three to four films as a child actress. In Heer Ranjhan film, she sang the song “Desaan Da Des Punjab”, which got really hit and people really liked that. It was a time when she was titled with “Baby Noor Jehan.”

From Baby Noor Jehan To Noor Jehan

She first appeared as an adult actress in Khandan film. And, her last films in British India were Mirza Sahiban in 1942 and Anmol Ghari in 1946. All such films are marvels, and Madam Noor Jehan nailed in all domains: singing, expression, actress, and beauty. After that, she moved to Pakistan and then what we say, “Her migration to Pakistan was a gift that boasted the newly-born entertainment industry.”

After Independence – Struggles Led To First Female Director And Unmatchable Artist.

Since the entertainment industry of Pakistan was just born, there wasn’t much work – No films, nothing. She got the first break in 1951 when a film “Chan Wey” started. This film was directed by her and her husband, Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. In this film, she emerged as the first female director of Pakistan. After that, she took a long break, and then returned with a huge hit film, “Intezar” in 1956. In this film, she played the role of a blind singer – one can see her beauty as an actress and jaw-dropping expressions. If you will see this film, you will leave no second to shout “what a diva.” She did other films as well as Dosti, Koel, etc. After that, she left acting and focused on just singing.

Some Untold Stories

Sa’adat Hassan Manto And Noor Jehan

Like me, Manto was also a huge fan of Noor Jehan’s singing. He said in Manto Naama:

“In those days Noor Jehan used to create mischief and unrest in the film-going public. It wasn’t about her face or her body. It was simply her voice that caused such a commotion. After Sehgal, Noor Jehan was the singer who really impressed me. She had such a pure voice, with such clear tone. I’ve always thought that if the girl wanted to she could hold a single note for hours, like an acrobat who stands on a tightrope without slipping.”

Although he critiqued her beauty, at the same time, Manto confessed how mad were her fans by quoting several examples. And, if you want me to confess the truth, I dream her as well in this modern age. I fantasize her style, her expression, and her voice – I am her true love.

Mujhse Pehli Se Muhabbat

What a poetry by Faiz Ahmed Faiz – indeed it conceives a rampant history. However, when it comes to who gave life to it? It was Noor Jehan. Many do not know that when she first performed this song, there was Zia’s military rule. However, she didn’t hesitate for a second to sing that poetry. When she was told that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was in jail, and his poetry was banned in the country, she became courageous enough to stand against the dictatorship and stood by her devotion to music and singing with a strong sympathy and admiration for Faiz. She sang it, nailed it, and she stunned Pakistan – even Faiz in jail when he listened to it via radio. After that, whenever people would ask Faiz to recite that poem, he wouldn’t entertain that. He would rather say to go and ask Noor Jehan to narrate this poetry because that poetry’s not his anymore.

My Favorite 15 Songs Of Madam Noor Jehan

  1. Awaaz Dey Kahan Hey (Anmol Ghari)

  1. Yaha Badla Wafa Ka (Jugnu)

  1. Sagar Roye Lehren Shor Machayen (Koel)

Her style in this song will give you goose-bumps.

  1. Dil ka Diya Jalaya (Koel)

The song that thrilled the sub-continent.

  1. Raat Phaili Hai Tere (Taranum, PTV)

  1. Dil Dhadakne ka Sabab Yaad Aaya (Taranum, PTV)

  1. Neeyat-e-Shauq Bhar Na Jaaye Kahi (Taranum, PTV)

  1. Mujhse Pehli Si Muhabbat

  1. Chithi Zara Saiyanji (Dosti)

10. Laal Meri Pat – The Dhamaal first sung by Noor Jehan and thrilled the sub-continent

  1. Mehki Fizayen (Koel)

The enchanting and seductive dance – way better than today’s item songs. You can’t resist to replay it.

  1. Jawan Hai Mohabbat (Anmol Ghari)

  1. Sada Hoon Apnay Piyar Ki – Pakistan’s most resonated song in the late 50s.

  1. Rimjhim Rimjhim Pare Phowar (Koel)

The Generation Xers and Baby Boomers say that their monsoon was incomplete without this song.

  1. Ao Raana Raho Raat (Noor Jehan’s Sindhi Song)

So far, she is the only singer who sang Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi so flawlessly. It demonstrates who connected the whole country was. Lost the words! I am drowned in the beauty of pre 70s Pakistan.

The Last Song Of Ma’am Noor Jehan

She sang the prophetic song, and it was her last song. After some months, she left this world. The lyrics, “Ki Dam Da Bharosa Yar, Dam Awe na Awe” means “We cannot predict, beloved, which moment might be the last breath.” She was right and so prophetic. With that, we couldn’t imagine that she would leave us. However, her songs are alive. And, as she said, “Artist never dies.” So, she will be alive in her songs, because, “gaaye gi duniya geet meray.”

Famous Personalities About Noor Jehan

  1. Akhtari Bai.

“When she will sing, no other could compete.”

  1. Lata Mangeshkar

“I am a fan of Noor Jehan. She was and will remain the Melody Queen.” She added,

“I was a struggling worker in the industry, when she was shooting for Bari Amma, and I sang before her, and she said, “You sing well, but practice classical singing more.”

  1. Dilip Kumar

“What a voice and what a beauty.”

Noor Jehan in India

She was overwhelmingly welcomed in India after 35 years.

Noor Jehan’s Patriotic Songs

During the war, her songs escalated the enthusiasm and patriotism of Pakistanis. People of that time say that although Pakistan lost 1971 war but Noor Jehan’s songs grabbed the victory. Among such songs are “Ay puttar hattan te nai vikde,” “Ay watan ky sanjeele jawano,” “Har lehza hai momin,” etc.

Hence, I am doomed, believe me I am. After listing these songs and the history of this diva, I can’t resist myself to stop writing and get back to listening to her marvels. It is 3 AM right now, and I am dying to play “raat pehli hai tere”. Noor Jehan is Noor Jehan. I would suggest my fellows to listen to such amazing classics and that amazing poetry that represents our culture and our traditions. It energizes your soul and connects you to peace, love, and humanly nature. I made my point, now it is up to you.