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February 24, 2024 2:36 am

The unfortunate August when Amritsar lost its finest singing stars 

Harjap Singh Aujla

The month of August in 1947 was unlucky for the city of Amritsar. This second largest city of Punjab not only lost half of its population, but also its finest singing stars and a huge number of skilled industrial workers. Due to the demand generated by non-stop devotional music at the Golden Temple, Amritsar had become a nursery of high end musicians. The frenzy of communal madness generated by the ill feelings took away from us the Queen of Ghazals Farida Khanum, who had to flee the city and settle in the neighbouring city of Lahore. Within the Indian Sub Continent, in name and fame Farida Khanum was next only to Begum Akhtar. One of her renditions “Woh Ishq joHumse Rooth Gaya, Ab Uska Haal Sunayen Kya” meaning “The love which got angry with us, how can I talk about that”. There are other Ghazals, which she sang such as “Aaj jaane kizid na karo, Hum to mar jaayenge, hum to lut jaayenge, AisiBaaten kiya na karo”. It means “Please don’t insist on leaving today, we will die without you”. She is still alive in her nineties, but still nostalgically remembers her place of birth.  

Another equally great singer we lost in 1947 was ZubaidaKhanum, who ruled the Punjabi film industry of Lahore for a decade from 1947 to 1957. She was nicknamed “the LataMangeshkar of Pakistan”. She was also born in Amritsar and had to leave her city due to mindless rioting. One of her rendered popular songs is “Meri Chunni diyan Reshami Tandan, veh main ghutt ghutt deniyan gandan” became very popular in Pakistan. Another song “Dila Thehar jaa Yaar da Nazara lainde”, meaning “Oh my heart please wait a moment, let me enjoy the company of my lover”. Although Noorjehan was acknowledged as the Pakistani Queen of songs, ZubaidaKhanum held her place as the singer to reckon with.

Zahida Perveen was a Soofiana singer of Pakistan. She too was a daughter of Amritsar. She was also made to exit the city of her birth. I have heard her renditions of Heer, which are amazing. She sang some memorable Kafis of Multan in her silken sweet voice. All of her renditions are masterpieces. She was one of Pakistan’s best spiritual singers. How nice it could have been, if all of them could have lived in India and enriched its culture.

Another icon of Amritsar was a male singer Sain AkhtarHussain. Who was unceremoniously made to leave the place of his birth. He was a street minstrel. In Amritsar he used to sing Shabads of Gurbani in the streets and in Lahore, he used to sing Naats in praise of Profit Mohammad. Radio Pakistan Lahore discovered his talent, invited him to its studios and approvedhim as a radio singer. One of his most popular songs was “BeebaSaade Naal Mukkdi Muka Lai, injh nahiyon Gall Mukkni”.

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