(From Wikipedia and other sources, prepared by  Feroz Mehdi)


What Mirza Ghalib was to  Begum Akhtar, Faiz Ahmed Faiz was to Iqbal Bano;  Both these Gazal icons are gone but their melodious voices are there and will  resound  for generations.


Iqbal Bano, one of the South Asia’s most loved Ghazal, Thumri and classical singers,  died on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at a local hospital in Lahore. She was 74.


Iqbal Bano was brought up and raised in Rohtak, India.  She developed a love for music at an early age.

Iqbal Bano studied under Ustad Chaand Khan of the Delhi Gharana, an expert in all kinds of pure classical and light classical forms of vocal music. He instructed her in pure classical music and light classical music within the framework of classical forms of Thumri and Dadra. She was duly initiated Gaandaabandh shagird of her Ustad. She sang at the All India Radio while in Delhi.


In 1952, a Zamindar from Pakistan married 17 year-old Bano with a promise that he would never stop her music. He kept his promise. After her husband’s  death in 1980, Iqbal Bano moved to Lahore, considered the film capital. She was invited by Radio Pakistan for performances. Her debut public concert was in 1957, at the Lahore Arts Council before an elite crowd. Music lovers feted her beyond imagination. With each recital, she generated more and more public appeal. She was considered a specialist in singing the works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. She has given such musical relevance to the ghazals of Faiz, that Bano and Faiz are apparently inseparable in popular imagination.


At the height of the Zia-ul Haq’s dictatorship , Iqbal Bano sang at a Faiz Festival in Lahore to a crowd of 50,000. Her rendition of Faiz’s poem ‘Hum Dekhen Gay’ caused quite a stir and also landed her in trouble with the military authorities. But this act also made her an immensely popular singer, breaking the boundaries that were imposed by the select audiences of classical music.


Music lovers have noted some similarities between Bano and Begum Akhtar, especially some marked resemblances in their styles of singing. Iqbal Bano does not consider the contemporary ghazals as ghazals at all. Her recitals stick to the old classical style that lays more stress on the raag purity. Basically a ghazal singer, Iqbal Bano has also sung many memorable Pakistani film songs. She has provided soundtrack songs for famous Urdu films like Gumnaam (1954), Qatil (1955), Inteqaam (1955), Sarfarosh (1956), Ishq-e-Laila (1957), and Nagin (1959). She won the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Pride of Performance) medal in 1974 for her contributions to the world of Pakistani music.


Iqbal Bano could sing Persian ghazals with the same fluency as Urdu. She was always applauded in Iran and Afghanistan for her Persian ghazals. The Iranians and Afghans thronged to her shows in large numbers to hear her ghazals in their mother tongue. Once she said in an interview, that she had a collection of 72 beautiful Persian ghazals. Before 1979, there was a festival of culture called Jashn-e-Kabul every year in Afghanistan. Iqbal Bano regularly received a warm invitation to this annual event. She was known for singing a new Persian ghazal each time she appeared. The King of Afghanistan liked her recital very much. Once, on such an occasion, the king was so pleased with her ghazals that he presented her with a golden vase in appreciation of her music.


Despite her trouble with the military government which debarred her from official concerts, Iqbal Bano continued to sing for private audiences and soon after emerged on stage owing to her immense popularity in a wide section of Pakistani society. However, her failing health restricted her performances and by 2003 or so, her appearances were rare and largely restricted to a few ghazals.


Soon after she withdrew from the public eye and restricted herself to family life, content to spend time with children and grandchildren at her modest residence in Lahore.

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