Tina Sani talks Faiz and Iqbal

Nightingale of Pakistani classical music says learning Urdu expressions was a challenge.

Our Correspondent March 19, 2013
Ghazal singer Tina Sani and poet Bilal Hamid read out excerpts on World Music Day at MAD School. PHOTO: PUBLICITY


For ghazal singer Tina Sani, whose ‘thinking language’ is English, understanding Urdu expressions was a challenge when she started to ‘sing’ poetry. But she learnt the language well over the years and fell in love with Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Allama Iqbal in the process.

Sani was speaking on the celebration of World Poetry Day at Music, Acting and Dance (MAD) School on Saturday evening with English poet Bilal Hamid. Hamid’s selection of English poetry by Pakistani poets was enlightening, however, a somber and a non-interactive recital left the audience bored.

When Sani took the floor, it was like a breath of fresh air. “Unlike this talented gentleman [Hamid], I don’t write poetry,” started Sani, welcome by a hearty applause. “I sing poetry.” The nightingale of Pakistani classical music vastly improved the environment and mood at A Cup of Coffee with Tina Sani, an event which kicked off on a flat note.

Having seen the 1965 and 1971 wars, Sani said she had become a sensitive individual in the early years of her life — someone who felt the plight of her land. The problems faced by the people around her became the reason for her to avoid singing patriotic numbers. “I always wondered if there is something I can sing for my country without feeling guilty about it. Then I stumbled upon Faiz’s writing, but could never meet him,” continued Sani as the crowd burst out a loud “awww”.

Owing to her childhood in Kabul, Sani became fluent in Darri and Persian. At this point, singer Zoe Viccaji, who was present among the audience, asked Sani, “How did you end up understanding the Urdu expression when English was your thinking language?”

Smiling before she answered Viccaji’s question, Sani said, “Since Urdu is a merger of so many languages, you never run out of words.” For Sani, her fluency in Darri, French and Persian helped her in reading poetry. However, she started understanding Faiz’s poetry primarily because of musician Arshad Mehmood, who knew Faiz and had studied his work.

On the evening, which was dedicated to Allama Iqbal, Sani distributed handouts of Indian novelist Khushwant Singh’s translation of Iqbal’s Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa. With her recordings of Iqbal’s ghazals playing in the background, Sani said, “What I like about Iqbal is that you will see his evolution as an individual in his poetry. Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa reflect Iqbal’s angst towards what Muslims had done to themselves after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.”

For her upcoming album, Sani will be taking up Jalauluddin Rumi’s Masnavi, which will be released by the end of this year in Urdu.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2013.                

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Tina Sani | 8 years ago | Reply

Thankyou 'Falcon' for such kind words, but sadly, I am now truly rusty in both darri and french because of years of not speaking or practicing them... Funny thing about languages is that if you don't converse in them enough, you forget them. Although now that I am spending considerable time reading Rumi's Masnavi alongside it's urdu translations, a lot seems to be coming back. Mind you the Darri that I spoke was learnt off the streets of Kabul and NOT the classic persian of Hafiz and Rumi, so you can imagine what 'fun' I am having here. Far from being an intellectual, it's just wonderful to be able to spend time with literary works of these incredible people and hope some of their wisdom rubs off!

Falcon | 8 years ago | Reply

Tina Sani taking up Mathnavi is a great idea. We need more sufi music from the legends.

On a side note, I didn't know she was so talented and knows multiple languages. It is also good to know that there are still intellectuals left in the country who read and appreciate Iqbal.

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