Noor Jehan: Nation in sorrow

By Anis Ahmed Shakur


Jaltay hain Armaan, mera dil rota hai
Qismat ka dastoor nirala hota hai
Aayee aisi mauj keh sahil choot gaya
Warna apni kashti kaun doobota hai
Qismat ka dastoor nirala hota hai

Kaun meray tootay dil ki faryaad sunay
Aaj meri taqdeer ka malik sota hai
Qismat ka dastoor nirala hota hai

Here is the six million dollar question:

Where did Noor Jehan acquire that immense pathos which not only enabled the renowned composers of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent to create the magnificent masterpieces, such that every alphabet of the lyrics, which came out of her searing, impassioned vocals were enough to melt down even the most hard-hearted person?

In my honest opinion, this might be the answer:

'Noor Jehan's vocal timbre was simply out of this world.'

Moreover, it was her sweet and mellifluous voice, combined with the precise diction and her authority on the urdu vocabulary that led to the creation of the ever-green songs.

Noor Jehan: Actress and singer.
Noor Jehan: The supreme soprano
Noor Jehan: Malika-e-Tarannum
Noor Jehan: The melody Queen
Noor Jehan: Singer of the century
Noor Jehan: The millennium singer
Noor Jehan: The most influential cultural ambassador of Pakistan
Noor Jehan: Pakistan's national songstress
Noor Jehan: Tamgha-e-Imtiaz 
Noor Jehan: Pride of Performance
Noor Jehan: A very special person
Noor Jehan: Voice of the century

The list goes on and on.
In fact, all superlatives like 'First', 'Only' 'Best' etc which are added to her name will never be considered enough to encompass her enormous contribution to the cause of music in her glorious sixty year showbiz career.

Born in Kasur, on September 21, 1926, she had a flair for music as a five year old child, she took music lessons from Kajjan Bai, a famous Indian songstress, who performed around 1920-1930.

Noor Jehan appeared in several movies as 'Baby Noor Jehan' starting from 'Sheela us pind di kurri (Punjabi film:1935), up until 1942, when the film 'Khandaan' (urdu) was released in which she played the lead actress for the first time.

From 1942 onwards, she was cast in several movies in India and later in Pakistan until 1959, when the films 'Koel' and 'Neend' were released, starring Noor Jehan as heroine.
Noor Jehan always sang from the depth of her heart, she left behind a treasure trove of songs like:

'Baanwari chakori karey duniya say chori chori' (film: Anarkali, picturised on Noor Jehan)
'Chandni raatain ho chandni raatain:(film:Dopatta,picturised on Noor Jehan)
'Rim jhim rim jhim paray phooar':(film:Koel, picturised on Noor Jehan)
'Gaaye gee duniya geet meray': (film:Mauseeqar, picturised on Sabiha Khanum)
'Aye musawwir teri tasweer udhuri hai abhi: (picturised on Shamim Ara)

The Following numbers are an all-too-true assessment of the highly adored Noor Jehan:

'Bari mushkil say hua tera mera saath piya': (film: Lakhon mein aik:Picturised on Shamim Ara)
'Chtthi zara sayyan jee kay naam likh dey'(film: Dosti:picturised on Shabnam)
'Sunn pagli pawan,sunn urti ghata' (film:Salam-e-mohabbat:Picturised on Zeba)

Noor Jehan alone was needed for such songs:

'Tumhara pyar na milta tou mar gaye hotay' (film: 'Aurat ik paheli': picturised on Zeba)
'Abhi dhoond he rahi theen': (film:Bay wafa: picturised on Shamim Ara)
'Salam-e-mohabbat bara khoobsurat': (film:Salam-e-mohabbat, picturised on Zeba)

Also great still were these mega hit numbers:

'Meri zindigi hai naghma meri zindizi tarana'(film: Saalgira, picturised on Shamim Ara)
'Ye ghar mera gulshan hai' (film: Baharo phool barsao', picturised on Rani)
'Baanwara munn aisay dharka na tha'(film: Mohabbat, picturised on Zeba)

The pathos in her voice was most conducive for the tragic films which the movie-goers in the Indo-pak subcontinent simply loved in the not-so-distant past:

'O bay wafa mein nay tujh say pyar kyon kiya'(film: 'Koel',picturised on Noor Jehan)
'O janay walay ray tehro zara ruk jao': (film: Intizar, picturised on Noor Jehan)
'Gham kay liye hain':(film: Adalat, picturised on Zeba)
'Dil ka diya jalaya'

Likewise, the scope for expanding the more lyrical sphere were enhanced with songs like:

'Tu jahan kaheen bhi jaa ye'(film:Insaan aur Aadmi,picturised on Zeba)
'Ye mera Aashiyaan mera ghar meri jannat' (film: Mera ghar meri jannat, picturised on Sabiha Khanum)
'Kuchh loag root kar bhi' (film: Andaleeb, picturised on Shabnam)

Noor Jehan was very particular with sad songs, which she always recorded with rare passion and feeling:

Jaltay hain Armaan mera dil rota hai: (film:Anarkali, picturised on Noor Jehan)
'Chalo achha hua tum bhool gaye': (film: Lakhon mein aik, picturised on Shamim Ara)
'Na janay kaisa safar hai mera'(film:Banjaran)

The characteristic vibrato in her voice enthralled millions in the melancholy strains of:

'Taqdeer ki gardish pay na ro' (film: Bahu Rani, picturised on Zeba)
'O ray sanam dil kaisay bataye'(film:Tauba, picturised on Zeba)
'Zamanay ki nazroan mein, mein bay wafa hoon'(film: Insaan aur Aadmi,picturised on Zeba)

Noor Jehan's songs still rank among the all-time favorite of urdu music lovers the world over:

'Laga hai misar ka bazaar deikho' (film: Tehzeeb, picturised on Rani)
'Khuda karay kay mohabbat mein' (film: Afshan, picturised on Shabnam)
'Ye waadiyaan ye parbatoan ki shahzadiyaan'(film: Dosti, picturised on Shabnam)

Noor Jehan's duets are reckoned by a vast majority of listeners as the best songs ever recorded in the annals of playback singing. Just think of the spell she cast through these duets:

'Mohabbat mein teray sar ki Qasam' (film:Aisa bhi hota hai: Noor Jehan-Ahmed Rushdi)
'Meray dil ki mehfil saja dey nay walay' (film: Andaleeb: Noor Jehan-Ahmed Rushdi)
'Aap ko bhool jaain hum'(film: Tum milay pyar mila:Noor Jehan-Mehdi Hasan)

Noor Jehan continues to live through her immortal renditions like:

'Lay Aayeen phir kahan par' (film:Saalgira, picturised on Shamim Ara)
'Dukha ye dil jo kisi ka'(film: Adalat,picturised on Zeba)
'Tum zindigi ko gham ka fasana bana gaye: (film:Dopatta, picturised on Noor Jehan)

Noor Jehan's recordings outs her in a category all her own, above all others in her field: 

'Pyar kar kay hum bohuth pushtaye' (film: Andaleeb, picturised on Shabnam)
'Izhar bhi mushkil hai'(film: Anjuman, picturised on Rani)
'Jo bacha tha wo lutanay kay liye Aaye hain' (film: Umrao Jaan Ada, picturised on Rani)

The awesome power of this great artist and her charismatic voice really hit home:

'Mujh say pehli see mohabbat meray mehboob na maang (Ghazal:Faiz Ahmed Faiz,not recorded for film)

Noor Jehan, the perennial favorite of music fans came to the Pakistani cinema with the essence of music and poetry:

'Aaj hai mehfil geet kay qabil' (film:Shama aur parwana, picturised on Shabnam)

As the voice behind such powerful films as 'Anarkali', 'Dopatta', 'Koel' etc she became the necessity of all the composers.

Noor Jehan was more than just a singer to the audience.She was the embodiment of soul and passion in music:

'Sayoni mera mahi' (film: Mastana mahi, picturised on Aaliya)

The spirit of the great singer lives on in the next generation:

'Har lehza hai momin ki nai shan nai Aan' (not recorded for film)

Here are two songs that also serve to showcase her amazing vocal agility:

'Ja, ja, ray ja, ja ray ja mein tou say naahi boloon'(film: Mauseqar)
'Sunn saajna dukhi munn tujh ko pukaray' (film:Lakhon mein aik, picturised on Shamim Ara)

Doubtlessly, Noor Jehan was a singer of power and ecstasy:

'Chanda ray chanda kuchh tu he bata mera afsana' (film:Baharo phool barsao, picturised on Rani)

Noor Jehan had a charismatic voice, hence she was extra special for all composers:

'Sada hoon apnay pyar ki'(film: 'Anarkali', picturised on Noor Jehan)

With her impeccable urdu pronunciation, Noor Jehan went on to achieve the stature of the greatest singing icon, for whom the lyricists and composers were eager to write and compose.
They knew her lips possessed that rare gift of further refining their compostion.

Pakistani public would want to hear none other, once Noor Jehan cast her vocal sway.

Her well-bred voice had a natural treble which was her hall-mark and which brought recognition to actresses like shamim Ara, Zeba, Rani, Sabiha Khanum, Nisho, Aaliya and many others, who had given lip movement foor Noor Jehan's songs, which remain peerless to this day.

Further, Noor Jehan goes down in the history of Indo-pak music as the only songstress few could imitate.

It was the sheer innocence of those earlier movies and her elegant simplicity which brought laurels to her at such a tender age.

Recall the enormous impact she made with a song which is a resounding tribute to our brave armed forces:

'Aye watan kay sajeelay jawano meray naghmay tumharay liye hain'

Poetry was undoubtedly integral to the music that Noor Jehan made and it was this intrinsic poetic content in her vocalizing that elevated a mere film song in her crooning custody, to a near art form:

'Jis din say piya par dase gaye'(film: Intizaar, picturised on Noor Jehan)

Furthermore, the eternal romantic was also Noor Jehan.Every word of the song came from the profundity of her heart:

'Dase paraye janay walay' (film:Daman aur chingari, picturised on Zeba)

The following is an instance of the vibrancy of Noor Jehan's presentation, reflecting the sentimentality of the time: 

'Bas gaya tu sautaniya kay dwar sajna' (film: Dosti, picturised on Shabnam)

Legends like Noor Jehan are not born daily and when they cross over, they can never be replaced.

On Saturday afternoon, December 23, 2000, when Noor Jehan passed, not only was the nation's greatest female voice in music silenced, but her death also robbed the world of one of its finest voices and a great exponent in modern times.

Noor Jehan left behind her voice, her music and this message to the posterity:

'Ga ye gee duniya geet meray
sureelay ung mein niralay rang mein
bharay hain armaano mein