The Indian sub-continent is a cluster of many different countries. These countries are quite varied from each other. But, the sub-continent, as a whole, shares a common culture, and, presents uniformity in the middle of diversity. One of the most important constituents of culture is music and songs. India and Pakistan share a similar musical history and style, which is why each has appreciated the singers from the other. Pakistan, being the home and patron of Sufism, Ghazals, Qawwali, Klasik, and many different folk forms, to name but a few genres in music, has produced some of the greatest singers, and many of them are women. Let’s read about some of the greatest Pakistani female singers, who have enthralled India and their own country alike with their unique but melodious voices.
1. Malika Pukhraj (1912 – 2004)
Born in Jammu in British India, Malika received her training in music from Ustad Ali Baksh Kasuri, father of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and spent nine years as a Durbar singer in the court of Maharaja Hari Singh. After she had gone to Pakistan, she won the same fame that she had in India, through her radio performances there. She is still considered the queen, whose renditions of folk songs and Ghazals are unmatched. ‘Lo Phir Basant Aaya’ and ‘Mere Qatil Mere Dildar’ are some of her famous songs.
2. Noor Jehan (September 21, 1926 – December 23, 2000)
Born as Allah Wasai in Punjab of British India in a family of musicians, she had a deeper interest I pursuing a career in acting, and graced Pakistani films with her sublimity of beauty and talent. Once she stepped into the world of music with training and skill in a broad range of styles such as traditional folk, theatre, Hindustani classical music, etc., there was no looking back as she eventually won herself the title of Malika-e-Tarannum. ‘Hamari Sanson Mein’ and ‘Chandi Raatein Sab Jug Soye’ are songs that are hummed in her fond memories, even today.
3. Zubaida Khanum (1935 – 19 October, 2013)
Zubaida is known as the best melody singer in Urdu and Punjabi. Born in Amritsar in British India, she started living in Pakistan after the partition of Pakistan from India, and lived there. With no formal training in music, she still managed to have a bright career in Pakistan’s film industry for about a decade, during which she recorded 250 songs, like ‘Teri Ulfat Mein’ and ‘Ek Birhan Baithe’ that are still commemorations of the golden era of 50’s and 60’s in Pakistani Cinema.
4. Farida Khanum (1935 – present)
Born in Calcutta and raised in Amritsar, Farida received music lessons from her sister, Mukhtar Begum, and Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan. After migrating to Pakistan in 1947, she performed in a public concert in 1950, and her career took off. She became a huge singing sensation owing to her performances on the radio. She is famously known as Malika-e-Ghazal. Fame and fortune followed her all her life, and even though her active musical career lasted till 1993, she is still remembered with love and respect for her contributions to Punjabi music. She is famously associated with the song, ‘Aaj Jaan Ki Zid Na Karo.’
5. Musarrat Nazir (13 October, 1940 – present)
Musarrat is a multi-talented artiste. She was drawn to music at a very early age, and started to sing for the radio in Pakistan. During her singing career, she also began acting on getting offers from film director, Anwar Kalam Pasha. But, singing was her primary passion and sang solo, mostly wedding and folk songs. She is most well-known for songs like ‘Gulshan Ki Baharon Mein’ and ‘Mera Laung Gawaacha.’
6. Reshma (1947 – 3 November, 2013)
Renowned for her throaty voice and the melodious clink that reverberates with every song of hers, was born in Bikaner, Rajasthan, and went to Lahore with her Banjara family, shortly after the Partition of India. A lot of her childhood was spent in the mazars or shrines of mystic Sindhi saints, singing. As a Punjabi folk singer, she is celebrated not just in Pakistan but also in India, and her songs have been extensively used in Bollywood. In fact, she is probably the most revered Pakistani folk singer. ‘Hai O Rabba Naiyo Lagda,’ ‘Ankhiyan No Rehen De’ and ‘Lambi Judai’ have transcended borders and made her a household name, despite her unconventional voice.
7. Abida Parveen (1954 – present)
Born in Sindh in Pakistan, Abida got drawn to the path of spirituality and music from a very early age, and obtained training from her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider, and then later, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. She stepped into the world of music as a professional singer in 1973, before which she sand in Dargahs and Urs. She is one of the forerunners of the Sufi music, and sings Ghazals, and Kafi is her genre. She is often referred to as the Queen of Sufi Music, for her repertoires in Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Saraiki and Persian, and the soulful, husky voice from Pakistan is much loved in India for songs like ‘Yaar Ko Humne’ and ‘Tere Ishq Nachaya.‘
8. Mehnaz Begum (1958 – 19 January, 2013)
Mehnaz sang for a wide variety of genres, but, she is most well-known as a singer specializing in Ghazal, Thumri, Dadra, Khayal and Drupad. But, her talent did not remain confined to just singing. She also specialized in reciting Marsiya, Noha and Salam forms of poetry and prose. She also took lessons in fine arts, and ‘Master Piece’ is one of her best works.
9. Tahira Syed (1958 – present)
Tahira was instructed in music by Malika Pukhraj, who also happened to be her mother. Indeed, Tahira had music in her blood, and she soon became a celebrated name as a Ghazal and folk singer in the Pakistani media radio and television for her repertoire in Punjabi, Urdu Pahari folk genres. ‘Abhi to Main Jawan Hou’ and ‘Chanjar Phabdi Na’ are some of the numbers that won her popularity.
10. Salma Agha (1956 – present)
One of the most acclaimed singers of Pakistani origin, Salma, was born in Britain, and she started out in the music industry with an album named ABBA AND AGHA, which had songs by ABBA in Urdu, winning her accolades. Salma is praised in India, as well as Pakistan, for her unique voice and style of music. She has won innumerable awards, and ever since the advent of new-age, contemporary music of India, she has done innumerable works with some of the most well-known musicians in India, such as Bappi Lahiri, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and the like. ‘Jhoom Jhoom Jhoom Baba’ ‘Dil Ke Armaan Aansuon Mein’ are songs that have won the hearts of millions. This British singer has also acted in movies, both in India and Pakistan, and is probably the most well-known of contemporary artistes of Pakistani origin.
Pakistan has, time again, proven to be a treasure trove of musical talent, and has nurtured talent, irrespective of the origin of the artiste. Thus, some of the best names in music as mentioned above, and many more, like Iqbal Bano, Munni Begum, Nayyara Noor, Nazia Hussan, Tina Sani, Shazia Manzoor, Shabnam Mujeed, Hadiqa Kiyani and many more are associated with this country and are celebrated throughout the sub-continent.