Noor Jehan: The undisputed queen of melody

She has an undisputed place in South Asia’s music industry and her powerful voice will continue to enchant hearts...

Tanveer Khadim December 23, 2014
Today is the 14th death anniversary of Malika-e-Tarannum Madam Noor Jehan. Yes, it’s been 14 long years since South Asia’s queen of melody left us all, after she suffered from a prolonged ailment, at the age of 74.

Famous for her silken saris, bold eye make-up, unique hairstyles and glittering diamonds, Noor Jehan’s melodious voice touched millions and created a matchless blend of vocal gestures and emotional expressions, which interpreted feelings in a very surreal way. A legendary singer, all her musical performances have a distinct manipulation and creation of vocal articulation, all done according to the standards of style and genre of every song.

Born as Allah Wasai on September 21, 1926, in Kasur, Punjab, Noor Jehan had an extensive career in the history of subcontinent’s film and music industry, spanning seven decades. From film direction and music composition to singing and acting, she did it all. In fact, she was the first female singer in the subcontinent to record a qawwali called Aahen na bharin shikve na kiye, for the movie Zeenat in 1945.

She has sung almost 10,000 songs in diverse languages, including Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi, and has received numerous awards as well as titles for her performing skills. Some of them include the President’s Award, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, The Pride of Pakistan, Bulubul-e-Pakistan, The Millennium Singer, and Cultural Ambassador of Pakistan.

She was solely responsible for changing the face of the subcontinent’s film music by inducing arousal, feelings, emotions and mood in the music genre. She influenced poets, singers and particularly composers to enhance their compositions and play with creativity. In fact, even Lata Mangeshkar imitated Noor Jehan’s singing style at the beginning of her musical career as a playback singer in Bollywood.

While talking about her famous film songs, one cannot ignore classics such as Kuch log rooth kar bhiChandni raateinSada hon apne piyarKala sha kala haiChand hanse dunya base royeGaey gi dunya geet mereyHamari sanson mein aajMahi awey gaSun wanjli di mithri tan waySayyo ni mera mahiSone di tavitri and many more.

These melodious compositions, along with her daring and enchanting voice, still creates a trance over her listeners.

Each song is a matchless piece of art, and each brings out an unusual sensation in us – this is the most influential aspect about her singing. Her dominant voice portrays what we feel inside, which many of us literally don’t know how to express.

Who can forget her mesmerising duets with Mehdi Hassan, Ahmed Rushdi, Masood Rana and Mujeeb Alam? Urdu and Punjabi filmgoers can still recall those songs for their intense exquisiteness; Aap ko bhool jayen from the film Tum Milay Pyaar MilaKoi yun bhi roothta hai from Aas and Cheti bhori ve tabiba from Tere Ishaq Nachaya are just a few examples.

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She has truly demonstrated that music is not only a source of amusement but also a great way to channel patriotism among the masses. She paid a tribute to the Pakistan army soldiers who embraced martyrdom during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Ae puttar hattan te nahi wikdeAe watan ke sajile jawanoRang laye ga shahedon ka lahuMere dhol sipahiya and Mera mahi chail chabeela are some of the unforgettable, poignant war songs wherein her voice promoted morale and emotions. She had the ability to breathe life into her lyrics.

It is the beauty of her accent and expressions that make her stand out as a singer, even today. Listeners can feel her spirit speaking to them through songs like Roshan meri ankhon mein.

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She did justice to Allama Iqbal’s thought-provoking poetry, Har lehza hai momin and anyone who listens to her song would feel the unmatched combination of verses and vocals in it.

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With her mesmerising voice, Noor Jahan decked ghazals in her own traits and turned them into something absolutely beautiful. With every poetical message, be it by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Mustafa Zaidi, Jamiluddin Aali or Bulleh Shah, she was able to create a sophisticated persona around it. Using illustrated expressions and gestures, she was able to add a new dimension to ghazals – and she did it with class.

Some of my favourite Noor Jehan melodies include:

Mein tere sang kaise chaloon

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Dil dharakne ka sabab yaad aya

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Dil ke afsane

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Jo na mil sake wohi

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Kabhi kitabon mein phool

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Mujh se pehli si muhabat

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Raat pehli hai tere surmai aanchal ki

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I am a big fan of her timeless music and the more I listen to her songs, the more impressed I get. It is absolutely impossible to cover each and every song of hers in a single blog. One would need multiple piles of books to praise her accomplished career.

No doubt, she has an undisputed place in South Asia’s music industry. Her powerful melodic voice will continue to enchant hearts of coming generations.

Gone, but never forgotten, rest in peace, Malika-e-Tarannum Madam Noor Jehan. You are still missed.
Tanveer Khadim
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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Danish Alvi | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend I love eastern music the ghazal styles and Madam Noor Jehan never disappointed me, she is pure magic.
WN | 5 years ago | Reply | Recommend I always get emotional to remember my childhood back in mid 80's when my mother and her sisters listen to Noor Jehan every afternoon and try to sing like her. My many memories are associated with her songs.
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