Suraiya Multanikar: From a stubborn child to a celebrated singer

International Arts and Cultural Festival concludes

Amel Ghani December 14, 2015
Suraiya Multanikar got her name after singing the Multani Kafi to perfection. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The development of Urdu literature, the establishment of Radio Pakistan in Lahore and the role of music in films were discussed on the last day of the three-day International Arts and Cultural Festival at Alhamra on The Mall.

A session titled Mazi Key Dareechon Sey Mauseeqi provided the audience with an opportunity to listen to singer Suraiya Multanikar talk about her career.

“I was born in a family of some great female singers. I started enjoyed singing at an early age,” she said. “I would go to Rahat cinema near my home to listen to the music… Lata among others.” She said she was six or seven years old at the time.

Taking the craft forward

She said that one day her maternal uncle took her to a festival where Farida Khanum, Iqbal Bano and Zohra Bai performed. “Zohra Bai sang a ghazal and I insisted on learning from her. I was a stubborn child. My uncle finally took me to her,” she said. She said Zohra Bai had praised her. “She told my uncle that I should continue to learn.”

Multanikar said that despite hailing from a family associated with music, she had to face opposition from her brother. “People at that time would not think highly of a singer. Some of them even called my aunt merasi and kanjar,” she said. She said her brother was the only boy in the family… so everyone listened to him.

Multanikar said at the age of 11, she resumed training in music following the intervention of Makhdoom Ghulam Mustafa Shah Gilani, the grandfather of former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“I was scared of my teacher Ustad Ghulam Nabi Khan who was known as Fauji Khan. I would often pray that he should not show up,” Multanikar said. She said she would practice 10 hours a day. “For five hours in the morning, we would practice Raag Bherveen and Raag Aimen,” she said. She said that by the time her brother had also stopped opposing her singing.

Multanikar said she had gained popularity after her performance at a gathering organised by former president Ayub Khan. She was 19 at that time.

“Some of great classical singers from India and Pakistan were present there. They would not listen to anyone,” she said.

Multanikar sang her famous song Bare Bemurawat Hain Yeh Husan Waley; the song was later included in the movie Badnaam. “The film was released and the song was a huge hit. The HMV [an entertainment retailing company] would usually produce records in six to seven days. But they produced those in a day and a half only for the song.”

‘Those promoting classical music should be lauded’

Alhamra Arts Council Chairman Ataul Haq Qasmi thanked the audience for making the festival a success.

Multanikar sang some of her famous songs along with Arif Lohar and Shafqat Ali Khan at the musical programme that followed the closing ceremony.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th,  2015.


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