Tuesday 28 April 2009

Iqbal Bano: another loss for Pakistani Arts

Another sad loss for Pakistan’s artist fraternity this week was the sad demise of Iqbal Bano, renowned classical singer of Urdu ghazal. While the world remembers magical combinations of beautiful lyrics and her melodious voice that left an indelible mark on the hearts and souls of listeners there are many in Pakistan who view her as one of the last bastions of artistic resistance against dictatorships in Pakistan. Her best known works include renditions of poems of famous poet and revolutionary, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Like Habib Jaalib who never hesitated representing the oppressed in Pakistan, at a time when General Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship was at its worst Iqbal Bano sang at a festival in Lahore to a crowd of 50,000. She became a cult figure under Zia regime in the 1980s when she sang songs banned by the government. Her rendition of Faiz's poem Hum Dekhenge caused quite a stir and landed her in trouble with the military authorities but made her an immensely popular singer. Classical Urdu singing has traditionally been for the pleasure of elites in the subcontinent, but Iqbal Bano’s singing of Faiz broke those boundaries and she became popular with the masses. Like Naheed Siddiqui and Habib Jaalib she faced the wrath of the military authorities who barred her from official concerts but she kept her music alive by singing at private parties.

To remember Iqbal Bano I am embedding this video courtesy YouTube. Below the video I have reproduced the famous poem by Faiz with an English translation by Ghazala.

Hum dekhenge

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
Wo din ke jis ka wada hai
Jo lauh-e-azl mein likha hai

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
Rooi ki tarah ur jaenge
Hum mehkoomon ke paaon tale
Ye dharti dhar dhar dharkegi
Aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar oopar
Jab bijli kar kar karkegi

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
Sab but uthwae jaenge
Hum ahl-e-safa mardood-e-harm
Masnad pe bethae jaenge
Sab taaj uchale jaenge
Sab takht girae jaenge

Bas naam rahega Allah ka
Jo ghayab bhi hai hazir bhi
Jo manzar bhi hai nazir bhi

Utthega an-al-haq ka nara
Jo mai bhi hoon tum bhi ho

Aur raaj karegi Khalq-e-Khuda

Jo mai bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho

We shall Witness

We shall Witness

It is certain that we too, shall witness
the day that has been promised
of which has been written on the slate of eternity

When the enormous mountains of tyranny
blow away like cotton
Under our feet- the feet of the oppressed
when the earth will pulsate deafeningly
and on the heads of our rulers

when lightning will strike.

From the abode of God
When icons of falsehood will be taken out,

When we- the faithful- who have been barred out of sacred places

will be seated on high cushions
When the crowns will be tossed,
When the thrones will be brought down.

Only The name will survive
Who cannot be seen but is also present

Who is the spectacle and the beholder, both

I am the Truth- the cry will rise,

Which is I, as well as you

And then God’s creation will rule

Which is I, as well as you

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