I have known Nayyara Noor since the time she started singing for Pakistan Television. We sang our first song together for Pakistan Television Corporation’s music programme ‘Sangat’ hosted by me and produced by talented music producer Rafiq Ahmad Warraich. It was the year 1973. The lyrics of the song were “Dil Bhi Hai Tera Mehrban” penned by Adeem Hashmi and its music was given by Rehman Verma. The latter was partner of music composer Khayyam with the name Verma Ji-Sharma Ji before the creation of Pakistan. Then we were paired together by another talented music producer Shehnshah Nawab for Allama Iqbal’s poem “Bahazoor Risalat-e-Ma’ab” in 1983 in the music of Khalil Ahmad. The latter had started giving more time to PTV after playing a successful innings in Lollywood. During this time, I found Nayyara Noor’s personality very amiable, educated and cultured. These traits reflected in her voice also. Nayyara Noor was born on Friday, November 3, 1950 in Assam, India. Family: Nayyara’s family was a business oriented one hailing from Amritsar that had settled in Guwahati in Assam State in the North-Eastern India. About the presence of mysterious sadness and haunting impact in her melodies, it must have been due to the influence of the green landscape of Asaam. Her father was an active member of the Muslim League and in 1958, the family moved to Pakistan. Discovery: Nayyara was discovered by Professor Asrar Ahmad from Islamia College, Lahore. The professor was attending a musical evening at National College of Arts and Nayarra was singing a Bhajan ‘Jo Tum Toro Piya’ from the movie ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje’ in the concert when the professor picked her up. Nayarra is reported to have been associated with Professor Assar for about five years wherein she also sang his music compositions. About her formative days, veteran musicologist and journalist Asif Noorani writes in his submission in Dawn newspaper ‘It was sometime in the early 1970s, when PTV enjoyed monopoly and presented some fine programmers, that we saw a girl-next-door type, looking somewhat emaciated, regaling music lovers with lovely ditties in programmers like Akkar Bakker, Such Gap and Tal Matol. As she crooned numbers like Marajo’s geet “Barkha Ke Lakhon Teer Dil Per Kaise Sahoon Mein”, with full-throated ease, one was struck by the limpid flow and mellifluousness in her renditions’.On the contrary I feel that she sang with soft tones and yes, with ease. She was given the title of Malika-e-Ghazal also. With choices of mentors like Begum Akhtar and alike, Nayyar Noor had to be a strong exponent of Ghazal singing amalgamating their styles. I am not too sure but she is also said to have learnt music from GA Forooq of Kirana school of thought in Lahore. Nayyara Noor is the choice of an average educated and cultured music lover of at least past two generations. Popular songs: Before proceeding ahead I shall discuss some of Nayyara’s popular items. Initially her ghazals and poems of Faiz became popular. Faiz was her favourite poet. His Ghazal “Hum Keh Thehre Ajnabi Itni Madaraton Kei Ba’ad, Phir Banein Gey Ashana Kitni Mulaqaton Kei Ba’ad’ was the first one to get noticed probably because of seven-beat rhythm in which it was composed due to its long ‘beher’ (meter). Just when Nayyara was getting established as a melodious singer, the music composers of Urdu films like Robin Ghosh, Nisar Bazmi and M. Ashraf borrowed her voice for their film songs. Robin Ghosh composition of Tasleem Faazli’s song ‘Roothe Ho Tum, Tum Ko Kaise Manaaun Piya’ in the film ‘Aina’, became an overnight sensation. Among the Ghazals that have always been my favourites, one is from PTV’s Ghazal programme ‘Sukhanwar-2’ with ‘Matla, ‘Har Chand Sahara Hei Tere Pyar Ka Mujh Ko/Rehta Hei Magar Aik Ajab Khauf Sa Dil Ko’. This was a popular Ghazal programme produced by Akhtar Waqar Azeem in the mid-1970s. It was reproduced with other Ghazals when PTV’s colour transmission started. Nayyara believed in simplicity as far as looks are concerned. She would wear simple clothes and cover her ears with her hair when she appeared first in PTV’s programme ‘Sach Gup’ conceived by Shoaib Hashmi. She believed it was the voice and singing that mattered and not appearance and music lovers bought that idea. In the programme ‘Meri Pasand-2’ she rendered Arshad Mahmud’s composition ‘Mujhe Apne Zabt Pei Naaz Tha Sar-e-Bazm Raat Yei Kaya Hua/Meri Ankh Kaise Chalak Gai Mujhe Ranj Hei Yei Bura Hua’ again in six-beat Mughlai/Chanchal rhythm while Agha Nasir, former Director Programmes of ‘Sukhanwar’ days seated in the audience. It is a beautiful rendition. Nayyara used to sing songs of veteran singers also. One of such songs that she reproduced in her re-appearance in Khwaja Najam ul Hassan’s revival of his programme ‘Meri Pasand’ from Islamabad PTV’s Center in 1990s was ‘Takta Hei Teri Soorat Har Aik Tamashai’. One of the Stanzas is, ‘Jee Bhar Gaya Dunya Sei Ab Dil Mei Yei Hasrat Hai/Mai Hoon Ya Tera Jalwa Aur Gosha e Tanhaai’. This Ghazal was rendered in thumri-singing style with Antra without rhythm and Asthai in rhythm. Nayyara kept her musicians the same during live singing. Violinist Javed Iqbal mostly accompanied her during her Stage and TV appearances with Shabir Hussain on harmonium and Sajid on Tabla. While we are discussing Faiz, his poem ‘Aaj Bazaar Mein Pa Bajolan Chalo’ was also noticed. It was the launching of the audio album ‘Nayyara sings Faiz’, jointly produced by Faiz’s talented son-in-law Shoaib Hashmi and EMI, the recording company, as a birthday gift for the great poet in 1976 that Nayyara was taken seriously by music lovers as a singer. The lovely compositions by Shahid Toosy and Arshad Mahmood, featuring in the album, were sung with intensity of emotions by Nayyara Noor. In the song, ‘Tum Mere Paas Raho, Mere Humdum Mere Dildar, Jis Ghari Raat Chale’ he used just Tabla in soft tone and keyboard chords in the background. It was the melody that mattered with Nayyara’s clear voice shining in the song. Momin Khan Momin’s Ghazal ‘Woh Jo Hum Mein Tum Main Qaraar Tha Tumhain Yaad Ho Keh Na Yaad Ho’ is again in seven-beat rhythm; not as appealing as the other Nayyara items. Madhu Rani’s rendition of this Ghazal in India has been used in Saira Kazmi’s in one of her PTV Plays ‘Zikr Hei Kai Saal Ka’ pictured on Rahat Kazmi and Attiqa Odhu. Even Ghulam Ali, Begum Akhtar and Fareeda Khunum’s versions of this Ghazal are worth listening to. The poem “Yeh Haath Salamat Hain Jab Tak” is appealing. The poems “Aaiye Arz Guzarain Keh Nigar-e-Hasti”, is a typical Noor number. A change comes in the use of instrumental support in the rendition of the poem “Barkha Barse Chat Par” with the use of flute and piano and the usual sitar with Nayyara Noor’s husband Shehryar Zaidi singing a rain song along with her. The treatment given to the lyrics are that of typical Punkhej Malik/Jag Mohan style of singing. The poem “Chalo Phir Se Muskuraein” has an element of hope from the other social themes. The poem “Khair Ho Teri Lailaaon Ki In Sab Se Keh Do” comprises just two lines followed by “Utho Ab Maati Se Utho, Jago Mere Laal”. Poem “Ye Dhoop Kinara” is a nice change. Faiz-Nayyar-Arshad shine again in the poetry “Mera Dard Naghma-e-Besada”, which is sung well by Nayyara Noor and was originally rendered for PTV’s programme ‘Sukhanwar’. The best Ghazal however is ‘Aei Jazba-e-Dil Gar Main Chaahun Har Cheez Muqabil Aa Jaye’; a Ghazal by Behzad Lakhnuwi for PTV’s programme ‘Sukhanwar’ in 1972. Music was composed by Master Manzoor Hussain. Film and non-Film Numbers: She rendered sixty two songs for films as Playback, many songs for television and recording companies. She was choosy as far as LIVE performances are concerned even during her hey days: Nayyara Noor has rendered many popular national songs. One of such songs ‘Ik Parcham Kei Saaye Talle Hum Aik Hain, Hum Aik Hain’ was taken by music composer M. Ashraf in the film ‘Farz Aur Maamta’ penned by Kaleem Usmani. In the same movie she rendered a song ‘Mera Pyar Tum Hi Ho Sajna’ with the same team. How can the list of Nayyara’s song be complete without mention the song ‘Raat Dhale Ya Din, Subha Dhale Ya Shaam’ from the unreleased film ‘Aadhi Larki’ in the music of very talented music composer Karim Shahab uddin? Songs of this movie were penned by Qasim Nuri. I also rendered two songs for my rare entry in Lollywood, one solo ‘Dil Tera Kyun Jale’ and one, a duet ‘Manjhi Re’ with Karachi based singer Shazia in this film. Theme songs for TV Darma Serials: The most popular title song for PTV’s drama serial was Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s lyrics, Raat Youn Dil Main Teri Khoyi Hui Yaad (The Great Nayyara Noor) “PTV Classic Dhoop Kinarey”. The serenity of romance between Marina Khan and Rahat Kazmi at the end of episode of the Saira Kazmi’s drama serial ‘Dhoop Kinare’ was the epic of Nayyara Noor-Arshad Mahmud combination. This song and the serial were very much appreciated in India also and the script was borrowed for some serial in India also. Play was written by Haseena Moin for Karachi center of Pakistan Television, starring: Marina Khan, Rahat Kazmi, Arshad Mehmood, Hameed Wyne, Qazi Wajid, Kehkashan Awan, Sajid Hassan, Badar Khalil, Ishrat Hashmi, Azra Sherwani and Ghazal Siddiqi. ‘Kabhi Hum Khoobsoorat They/Kitaabo’n Mein Basi Khushboo Ki Maanind Saans Saakin Thi/ Bahut Sei Ankahe Lafzo’n Sei Tasveerain Banate They/Kabhi Hum Bhi Khoobsurat They’ was another ever-living poem penned by Ahmad Shamim as theme song for a PTV’s drama serial in early 1980s. Music composer Khalil Ahmad composed this poem by softer rendition in the beginning and reaching climax in the end. The haunting Alaap in the beginning is the hallmark of this poem rendered by Nayyara Noor in her sweet voice. The childhood memories are kindled once we listen to this poem. I am also witness to a cotton weaver song ‘Dhuniya’ composed by music composer Mian Sheheryar for his music series ‘Jal Tarang’ in which he composed songs on rhythms taken from everyday life for PTV. Nayyara rendered it beautifully for the great master. Married Life: In the words of Asif Noorani, it was music that was responsible for her tying the nuptial knot with Sheharyar Zaidi. They had been keen competitors in inter-collegiate music contests where Nayyara Noor invariably bagged the first prize, while he, representing Hailey College of Commerce, had to settle for the second. A more film-like situation arose when the two met for the first time in a gramophone record shop. They were both hunting for Begum Akhtar’s discs. The rest, as they say, is history. Shehryar Zaidi appears in character roles from Karachi TV channels’ drama serials nowadays, bowing out gracefully from his singing passion. Nayyara Noor has been a very sincere mother and a wife. She spent lot of time in raising her children, hence making music her second priority. Her two sons, Ali, who does voice-overs, and Jaafer, the composer, are well settled in their professions. Her role as a mother has been overshadowed by her position as a grandmother. Of the two granddaughters, Inaya is five, while Azmina is six-months-old. “Inaya is quite chirpy. When she utters the word ‘dadi’ it is music to my ears,” says the woman whose name has been synonymous with melody. On Faiz Ahmad Faiz: Nayyara mentioned Asif Noorani of her views on people she was fond of. The name on top of the list is Faiz Ahmed Faiz. ‘When I was interviewing her last year for the centenary issue of Dawn dedicated to the greatest Urdu poet of the second half of the last century, I asked her “What is that one trait in Faiz as a person that you liked the most?” “His silence. I think that sums up the great man’s personality. It was not what an Urdu poet; Nasir Kazmi perhaps, once said that he was lonely even in company. Faiz Saheb was one person who was never alone even in his loneliness. He loved company and he also loved to listen to people. He was never there to approve or disapprove people. He liked to hear different points of view and gave his own opinion only when he was asked to do so. In fact I would go on to say all that he had to convey he did it so articulately through his pen, both as a poet and as a journalist. I can safely conclude that his silence measured the depth of his personality. “In the mid-seventies his house in Block H of Model Town, Lahore, was open to one and all. It was there that as a member of a young team of singers and composers I got to spend some invaluable time and meet eminent men of letters such as Soofi Tabbassum, Muneer Niazi, Ahsan Danish, Ejaz Batalvi, Intizar Husain and Munnoo Bhai, all of whom came to meet him’. Views on classical music: Nayyara Noor feels that the Ustads who concentrate more on craftsmanship and less on maintaining sweetness and who indulge in guttural gymnastics are doing our rich heritage a great disservice. “They should bring out the subtleties and nuances of the ragas by singing them softly instead of using long drawn non-aesthetic taans”, she stated in one of her interviews. Conclusion: Concluding Nayyara Noor’s best work has been for TV channels whether for drama serials like Tansen and tiled songs like “Chalo Us Koh Par” and “Mujhe Wida Kar”, or others mentioned above and Ghazals such as Behzad Lakhnuwi’s “Aei Jazba-e-Dil” or Nasir Kazmi’s “Phir Sawen Rut Ki Pawan Chali Tum Yaad Aaei”! Her album ‘Yaadon Kei Saaei’ reviving the theatre school of singing is worth mention also. She preferred use of actual Eastern instruments rather than the tones of these instruments through the synthesizers etc. When musicologist Sultan Arshad made Noor’s version of the film ‘Pehli Nazar’ song “Un Ka Ishara Jaan Sei Payara” to music composer Anil Biswas, the latter was excited and observed that if Noor existed in the 1940s he would have gladly made her sing that song then. That was a tribute by the great master to Nayyara Noor. Her only regret in her music life is that she was to sing for Khawaja Khurshid Anwar’s last film ‘Tansen’, but before he could have gone ahead, he passed away. Though she was happy with Nisar Bazmi, M Ashraf and Khalil Ahmad but she would have continued singing for Lollywood had Robin Ghosh not moved to Bangladesh. When I spoke to her last, she was taking a break for coming out once again in perhaps Sufi music. It is no time for her retirement yet! Published in Daily Times, November 9th 2018.