Thursday, 1 November 2007

Noor Jehan, Queen of Melody, Pakistan

Some of you may know I am a great fan of Noor Jehan (Light of the Worlds) (1926-2000). Noor Jehan was one of the most prolific and outstanding singers of India/Pakistan. She is revered by Pakistan as 'Malika-e-Tarunum' - Queen of Melodies. Noor Jehan has sung around 10,000 songs in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi films in both India and Pakistan. After partition of India and Pakistan she decided to settle in Pakistan. For me she was a beacon of a progressive Pakistani mind which was creative and musical. Her songs are powerful and her aura was even greater.

On 23rd December 2000 Noor Jehan died after suffering a heart attack. It was also the 27th Night of the Holy Month of Ramadhan. I still recall the night when I heard the news on a Pakistani Satellite channel. It is said that her funeral prayers were offered at Jamia Masjid Sultan, Karachi and that She is buried in the Left Side of Gate 2 at the Gizri Graveyard near Saudi Consulate in Karachi. Her grave is built of golden marble.

One report states, "In death, Noor Jehan dissociated herself from those she kept her company all her life, and left in the company of taraweeh prayers. When news of her death spread, people could not resist and turned on their televisions in the middle of the holy night's prayers for one last look of that smiling, dimpled face - that magic, charisma, that legend they called Malika-e-Taranum Noor Jehan." Taken from Wikipedia

Here are a few verses of a very famous song she sang which I have tried to translate, those Urdu experts please excuse any shortcomings here. This was sung in the movie Anmol Ghari (1946) in which she also starred. If anyone knows the poet please let me know.

I watched a live performance of Noor Jehan recently and whilst she was singing this song I noticed something very interesting. Let me place the context. This was one of her last live concerts which was in aid of the new cancer hospital that Imran Khan had established. It was also at the height of Noor Jehan's illness and it is evident that she is not at her best. As she is introduced on stage she begins by thanking God who has blessed the worlds with His grace. So when Noor Jehan starts with the words 'Aawaz de Kahaan Hai' she looks towards the sky as if to call to God... I found it very moving, amazing how at an earthly level we may understand these as love songs between human beings but they can quite easily be exchanged for the true love that a believer has, between themselves and their true beloved, God.

aawaz de kahaan hai
Call for me, where are you?
duniya meri jawan hai
My world is still young, healthy
aabaad mere dil mein ummeed ka jahaan hai
There is yet much hope in my heart
aaise mein tu kahaan hai
And then I wonder where are you?
duniya meri jawan hai ...
My world is still young, healthy

aa raat jaa rahi hai
Oh the night departs
yu jaise chandani ki
As if the stars
baaraat ja rahi hai
Are also departing in congregation
chalne ko ab falak se
Moving towards the galaxy
taaron ka kaarvaan hai
An exodus of stars
aaise mein tu kahaan hai
And then I wonder where are you?
duniya meri jawaan hai ...
My world is still young, healthy

kismat pe chha rahi hai
Why is it prevailing my destiny
kyon raat ki siyaahi
This dark night's ink
viran hai meri neenden
My sleep is abandoned
taaron se le gavaahi
Seek witness from the midnight stars
barbaad main yahaan hoon
I am unsuccesful here
aabaad tu kahaan hai
You are left succesful there
bedard aasmaan hai ...
The sky is left unshaken, unmoved
aaise mein tu kahaan hai
And then I wonder where are you?

aawaz de kahaan hai ...
Call for me, Where are you?

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