“Nayyara Noor’s voice was supernatural because her musical notes had a divine origin”

The Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) on Monday evening held a memorable tribute to Nayyara Noor (1950-2022), one of the country’s most admired singers, who died in Karachi on August 20.

What made the event memorable and interesting from start to finish was that its moderator was one of Nayyara’s closest friends, Arshad Mahmud, who is also credited with composing a large number of his musical successes. Between inviting various speakers, Mahmud throughout the ceremony shared his experience of working with Nayyara as well as his memories of her as a family friend.

He said he had known the late singer since the late 1960s, when he was studying at Government College Lahore, while Nayyara was enrolled in a textile design program at the National College of Arts.

He recalled that some young people with a strong sense of music at that time met regularly to sing and discuss music. Arshad played the guitar, his friend Shahid Toosi the harmonium and the accordion, and another friend Ilyas the tabla. Later, they will work with Nayyara for Pakistan Television (PTV).

It was in one of these gatherings that Mahmud met Nayyara. He remembered that she wanted to sing ‘O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi’ by Lata Mangeshkar from the movie ‘Parakh’. After a short discussion in which they decided on the scale on which Nayyara would sing, Mahmud and his friend agreed to accompany him on guitar and tabla respectively.

“When she started singing, I forgot how to play the guitar and my tabla friend couldn’t play the instrument either because we were fascinated,” Mahmud recalls. He said that their musical troupe then began to perform regularly at various gatherings, and since they did not charge money and played well, many people invited them to perform songs. Although Nayyara started singing for the radio, a major career breakthrough came in January 1972 when Mahmud’s teacher, Shoaib Hashmi, started a children’s show on PTV called “Akkar Bakkar”.

The program would also contain songs, and Hashmi commissioned Mahmud and Toosi to compose children’s songs for “Akkar Bakkar” which would be sung by Nayyara. However, this show was for children. Nayyara would sing for adults on PTV a year later when Hashmi started another program called “Such Gup”, which would have skits as well as songs.

It was during this time that Nayyara was rejected by a famous PTV producer because he thought her plain looks and style did not make her fit to appear on television. When Hashmi heard about it, he decided that Nayyara would be the only vocalist of “Such Gup”.

Mahmud said that legendary producer Agha Nasir once objected to the title “Such Gup”, saying it was against Urdu idiom and the title should be “Gup Shup”. Hashmi replied that he chose the title because it contained both “Such” (truth) and “Gup” (gossip). He explained that Nayyara’s songs make up the ‘Such’ part, while the rest of the program is ‘Gup’.

How Nayyara embraced any musical composition and channeled her heart and soul into it was something only she could do, Mahmud remarked. He told the audience that the late singer had a fine taste for poetry and had composed a few verses herself.

Artist Saleema Hashmi, wife of Shoaib and daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, recalled the days of ‘Such Gup’ when Mahmud, Toosi, Nayyara and others would spend hours at her house rehearsing songs. She said that to deal with the simple character of Nayyara that many found incompatible with the medium of television, they had to come up with unique solutions like using floral arrangements on set and creating lighting effects on set. his face.

She also said that as Nayyara was singing in the program while still in a seated position, rumors started spreading that she was paralyzed – which she laughed heartily at when she learned of this.

However, her straightforward personality and singing style that eschews unnecessary emotions or gestures did not prove to be a hindrance for her. “The ‘Su’ that resided in Nayyara’s throat was not something from this planet – it came from a divine source,” Saleema remarked.

Musicologist Sultan Arshad, who was also once a neighbor of Nayyara, recalled the times he spent with her discussing music. He said that Nayyara never compromised on her household chores and most of the time when he went to see her, he found her cooking.

About Nayyara’s admiration and fame in India, he said that once he was assigned to Mumbai for a long time, during which he had the chance to meet great composers. He remembers once playing Nayyara’s rendition of Anil Biswas’ song ‘Un Ka Ishara Jaan Se Pyara’ in front of the legendary Biswas who was so moved by it that he wrote a message for Nayyara, saying that she had sung his composition like a nightingale, and that he wanted her to be the original singer of this song.

He said that once the record company EMI invited her to come to India and give concerts in Bombay and Calcutta. A video was also released on the occasion in memory of Nayyara which was prepared by young music enthusiasts from the ACP. The video featured her career as a ghazal singer and playback singer for movies. It also included excerpts from one of his PTV interviews.

Some of the ghazals and Nazms rendered by Nayyara included in the video tribute were “Har Chand Sahara Hai” by Shohrat Bukhari, “Mulayam Garm Samjhaute Ki Chadar” by Zehra Nigah, “Ae Ishq Hamein Barbaad Na Kar” by Akhtar Sheerani,” Ae Jazba” by Behzad Lucknavi -e-Dil Gar Main Chaahoon’ and ‘Hum Keh Thehre Ajnabi’ by Faiz. It also featured famous movie songs rendered by Nayyara for Shabnam and other actresses, such as ‘Tera Saaya Jahaan Bhi Ho Sajna’ and ‘Roothe Ho Tum, Tum Ko Kaise Manaoon Piya’.

Rights activist Karamat Ali said Nayyara believed in progressive ideals and sang an anthem for a social conference for free because it was about the message of equality. The late singer’s son, Naad-e-Ali, and her husband, Shehryar Zaidi, also spoke on the occasion but, understandably, they were overwhelmed with emotions and had to pause between their speeches in order to reminisce about their good memories.

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