Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Studied in Govt. College, Lahore, Punjab University,Peshawar University & Zagreb University(Croatia). Started writing when in 7th class. Wrote prose & poetry,Have published writings in almost every Pakistani Urdu & English magazine and newspaper,held important positions in many literary and professional organizations. worked as a teacher, research scientist and industrial management professional, In the words of Arthur Miller I have always felt as being temporary. That is why there was no significant achievement.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


By Dr Afzal Mirza

There was a time when Mushaira culture was in vogue in Lahore. In his autobiography Intezar Hussain wrote of the Lahore after the 1947 partition when a large number of poets migrated to this city and Mushairas were commonly organised. "Almost everyday there would be a Mushaira somewhere," he wrote. And many poets who participated in these Mushairas read out their creations in a melodious way called tarannum. The term meant the melodious singing of a nazm or a ghazal without the accompaniment of music. My father used to tell me thatAllama Iqbal would recite his poetry in tarannum. Hafeez Jallundhri was another poet who recited his poetry in tarannum. Actually Hafeez knew the basics of classical music. He has also recited his Shahnama-e-Islam on Radio Pakistan in the accompaniment of Sarangi played byUstad Bundu Khan. Another poet who used to recite his poetry in tarannum was Ehsan Danish and because of this characteristic he was in great demand throughout India. But after the partition he gave up tarannum altogether.In an inter-school Mushaira in 1949 -- when I was a school kid --some known poets participated and many of those were the poets mentioned by Intezar Husain. One of these was Iqbal Safipuri who stole the show at this Mushaira. He was a thin man with a lean but melodious voice. He became a celebrity in Lahore in the early 1950s. At about the same time, the Red Cross organised a Mushaira in thePunjab University hall. Among the participating poets, was JigarMuradabadi who was known for his excellent rendition of poetry in tarannum. He was a dark-complexioned man with a black beard and was wearing a black sherwani with a black Jinnah cap in the Red Cross Mushaira. The edges of his mouth were smeared with excessive chewing of paan but he kept the audience spellbound with his beautiful tarannum:
Jab tak keh ghm-e-insaan say Jigar insaan kadil ma'mur nahin
Jannat sahi yeh dunya lekin jannat say jahannumdoor nahin
The show, however, was stolen by a young teenage girl -- all dressed in white called Zahra Nigah. She had a young and fresh voice then which touched every one's heart. It was for the first time that a woman had dared to enter the domain of Mushaira, hitherto exclusively monopolised by men. But her appearance changed the earlier trend altogether and people also started inviting women poets to theMushairas. Zahra Nigah, the elder sister of Anwar Maqsood and Fatima Surayya Bajya, had migrated from Hyderabad Deccan. After a couple of appearances in Mushairas she got married and migrated to the UK where she is now living a life of relative obscurity.Among others who made their debut in that Mushaira was one HabibJalib. A young man with long hair and nicely cut features, Jalib also succeeded in impressing the audience with his beautiful rendering of his famous ghazal:
Aik hamein awara kehnakoi barra ilzam nahin
Dunya walay dilwalon ko aur bohat kuch kehtay hain
Only Jigar, Zahra Nigah and Jalib were repeatedly called to the stage during this Mushaira. Afterwards, Jalib became a star poet. He had his own individual style of presenting his poetry and unlike other poets he maintained it till the end.Another poet who started as a tarannum poet was Qateel Shifai and his earlier rise to fame was due to his good voice but in his early forties he gave it all up. Nasir Kazmi was also one of those poets who could render his ghazals in tarannum but he gave it up at a later stage in his life. Tufail Hoshiarpuri was yet another poet blessed with good voice. He knew the intricacies of classical music as well. Zameer Jafri and Shaukat Thanvi also recited their poetry in tarannum, though their tarannum did not produce the desired effect. Also in 1950s, it was the Majlis-e-Iqbal of the Government College which had banned tarannum during its annual Mushaira. But in some of the meetings of the Majlis, Shakoor Bedil used to recite with tarannum on demand. The ban on tarranum was due to the fact that during the competition it was not possible to compare the poets who recited their poetry with tarannum with those who did not. I remember Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum asking Shakoor to recite a poem for him.Once Shakoor also recited M D Taseer's poem: Maan bhi jao/Janay bhido /Chorro bhi ab pichli batain. Shakoor Bedil had a trained voice.He was also the first playback singer of Pakistan. He sang for the movie Shahida as A Shakoor. At that time he was studying in the M A O .College Lahore. He was a short, dark and balding man who joined theGovernment College for his masters when he was in his thirties. His younger brother Khayyam is a known Indian composer.Many years later in one of the Oriental College Mushairas, a new poet stole the show. His name was Kalim Usmani:
Atish-e-gham to barrhaktihai mere seenay mein
Aanch kiyon aap kayrukhsar tak aa pohnchi hai
Usmani was a prote´ge of Ehsan Danish who had a large number of pupils. Usmani ended up writing for movies and produced many memorable songs. Saqib Zeervi was another tarannam poet much in demand in the Mushaira circuit. One of the poets who had a voice comparable to that of Jalib was Muzaffar Warisi. He became popular during 1960s and during Zia's dictatorship, he turned towards naatwriting. He is now a popular naat writer besides Mansur Tabish. Like Jalib, however, Warisi has maintained the quality of his voice even in the old age. There was one Rifat Sultan -- a poet from Shorkot --who used to present his poetry in compositions derived from ragas.Aiman Kalyan is quite a favourite raga among the poets and many of them presented their poetry in it. I remember an excellent poet from Jhang named Ram Riaz who had beautiful voice and wrote ghazals of high quality:
Tum to dunya kay mukhalif thay magar yehkiya hua
Tum peh hi chorr gayarang zamana apnna
As a student of the Government College Jhang, Ram along with his close friend Mahmood Sham participated in many inter-collegiateMushairas. Ram Riaz, being extremely sensitive, served as a teacher at many places and died prematurely. Then there was and is Aqeel Rubi who appeared a little later and could steal the Mushairas with his melodious voice. A teacher by profession, he has now given up reciting his poetry in tarannum.Among women poets, Zahra Nigah was later replaced by Munawwar Sultana Lakhnavi but she was no match for Zahra as far as the quality of poetry and presentation was concerned. She came into limelight because there was no one else to take the baton. A Sahiwal poet Bismil Sabri, also a protege of Qateel Shifai, also had good quality voice.Music and poetry are two inseparable things. Anyone who does not have a taste for music cannot compose balanced poetry. After all what distinguishes poetry from prose is the rhythm and the rhyme scheme.Barring prose poems, all other poetry is written according to certain rhyme scheme. Many poets who normally did not present their poetry in tarannum had an ear for music. Major Ishaq has written in his introduction to Zindan Nama that Faiz used to hum his verses while composing them. Some other poets who did not read their poetry in tarranum, in fact, lacked a quality voice.But the advent of the electronic media and the easy availability of a trained voice of a professional singer has changed the whole scenario. Now a poet needs not to be melodious to impress his audience. He can pass on his poetry to a reputed singer to sing and become famous as a result. The fact, however, remains, that with Mushairas becoming rare, the poets who presented their poetry in tarannum have also become few and far between.(Taken from Jang)


Blogger Ben said...

just read this post.
but no, 'read' is too light a word for the way i absorbed every letter that revealed something of a time thats no more.
it seems like a writer's fantasy world. Readings, mushairaas, music mehfilain or just hanging around with such inspiring figures are props of a dream that today's pakistani youth cannot even weave in his imagination.

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Blogger Sameer said...

Hello Dr. Afzal,

Is it true that Saanson Ki Maala pey, the song written by Tufail Hoshiarpuri?

I would like to find out who wrote this nazm or ghazal or whatever it can be called.

Thank you for help.

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