Subcontinent’s legendary ghazal and classical singer 74-year-old Iqbal Bano breathed her last here on April 21 at a local hospital after a brief illness.
Pride of Performance Award winner (1974), Iqbal Bano was born in Delhi in 1935 and later became contemporary of greats to the likes of Roshan Ara Begum, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Fareeda Khanum and many others, giving voice to soulful renderings of poets, especially Faiz Ahmed Faiz, to be heard by the people in the far distant future. This all happened because of her father, who let her pursue singing as a career when she was prophesied to become ‘a great singer’ as Bano was blessed with a melodious voice, while she loved music and singing to complement the blessing of Allah.
A singer of both classical and modern ghazals – though she had reservations for ‘filmi-type’ ghazals – Bano was brought up and raised in Delhi to be given under the tutelage of Ustad Chaand Khan of the Delhi Gharana, who was an expert in all kinds of classical forms. She was imparted instruction within the framework of classical forms of thumri and dadra. The Ustad introduced her to the All India Radio, Delhi, where she mesmerised people with her melodious voice, and continued singing till late ‘90s when in 2000, she quit singing after illness thereby ending five-decade long singing stint as a top singer, who never lost her ranking and shed her following despite various inventions in music made to accommodate ‘commercialism’ in the field. Her debut public concert was in 1957 at the Lahore Arts Council, after she had attracted huge number of admirers through the Pakistan Radio.
Since the first day, music lovers feted her beyond imagination as Bano acclaimed more public appeal than most of her contemporaries with each recital. She was considered a specialist in singing Faiz Ahmed Faiz, which ultimately made both Bano and Faiz an apparently inseparable duo. Despite Faiz’s imprisonment and resentment of various Pakistani dispensations towards him, Bano immortalised ‘Hum Dekhenge’ and many other poems and ghazals of Faiz.
Once she became a consummate singer of Urdu, Bano sang Persian ghazals with the same ease and fluency as Urdu, which won her equal appreciation in Iran and Afghanistan. Prior to 1979, that is, the Russian invasion and consequent unrest, she featured in the Jashn-e-Kabul every year, an honour for a Pakistani singer.
Iqbal Bano stuck to the old classical style that lays more stress on the raag. Though basically she was a ghazal singer, she had also sung many memorable songs for films like Gumnaam (1954), Qatil (1955), Inteqaam (1955), Sarfarosh (1956), Ishq-e-Laila (1957), and Nagin (1959). ‘Sitaro tum to so jao parishan raat…., Ambwa ki dalion pe jhoolna…. and never to be forgotten is ‘tu lakh chalay ri gori….’ are just three examples from hundreds of her renderings, which have engrossed people and will continue to do for decades to come.
On her personal front, she got married to a zamindaar in 1952 at the age of 17 after a promise to let her pursue music, which he did so for the next 28 years till he died in 1980. After her husband’s death, Bano moved to Garden Town where she remained till her death.
It is deplorable that leading lights of the Pakistan film industry and music did not bother to pay last respects and bid adieu to the great singer in a befitting manner, as only few from them could be seen accompanying Bano to her last journey to the heavenly abode.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Governor Salmaan Taseer expressed their deep sense of sorrow and grief over her demise. “Iqbal Bano was a great singer and a glorious chapter of music has ended in her death. Her contributions to music will always be remembered,” says a befitting tribute to Bano, who immortalised Faiz’s ‘Dasht-e-Tanhai….’Bano was buried at the Garden Town graveyard on Tuesday night (April 21) after her death the same day, but she will remain alive for her admirers for ages to come.