Death anniversary of Habib Wali Mohammad

ByUzair Ali

He is in the finance sector


September 16, 2022

Uzair Ali pays compliments to a legendary singing wizard

After leading a highly productive life Habib Wali Mohammad Tabani passed away on 3 September 2104 leaving behind an inimitable repertoire of music that will never be forgotten. He hailed from a business family that was considered to be far removed from the kind of artist that he ultimately pursued and made a name for himself. Right from the outset he showed remarkable talent for music and his good fortune was that his family encouraged him to indulge in it. Habib Wali Mohammad started taking part in music competitions winning the first prize in one such competition in 1941 and gradually becoming prominent in music circles.

Soon he was given break by Radio Ceylon that remained the most popular radio station for many decades. He recorded two ghazals Lagta Nahin Hai Jee Mera Ujray Dayaar Mein by Bahadur Shah Zafar and Mirza Ghalib’s Yeh Na Thi Hamari Qismat. Interestingly, the LP record did not have his real name. He recorded the LP under the stage name of Kamal Roy. These ghazals were composed by Saraswati Devi, said to be Indian film industry’s first female music composer.

It soon became evident that Habib Wali Mohammad had imbibed the intricate web of musical rendition in the subcontinent. His vocal style emphasising elongated rendition of all notes of a raga forming base of a composition complete with all tonal arrangements, melodic direction, musical sensibility and scalar sources is no less a school in itself. With time he joined the elite club of singing artists who rose to fame largely unaided by all-pervasive film music in their times that includes Begum Akhtar, Farida Khanum, Iqbal Bano, Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh.

His singing repertoire is reminiscent of his remarkable mastery over alankars (embellishments) of classical vocal regime reflecting seriousness in pursuing his musical career. His vocal expertise is clearly reflected in consistent taan like movements from one sur to the other (murki) in all his renditions. Moreover, he was quite attuned to move forcefully between close and distant notes (gamak) detectable in compositions like gajra bana ke le aa.
Despite registering his presence as early as in 1940s with lagta nahin jee mera, success eluded him for 30 years due to more velvety voices ruling the roost but his indomitable spirit and formidable talent refused to be upstaged. Recognition came to him through unconventional means; adaptation by Sohail Rana of two old time classics sung by Habib Wali Mohammad in film Bazi, ashian jal gaya and raaten thi chandni enabling him not to look back.

He was blessed with a musical baritone (kharaj) that suited resonant intonation considered attractive in classical vocal genres. The tenor of his voice suited pathos encouraging him to select a large repertoire of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s ghazals reflecting theme, imagery and stylistic norms of an age gone by. His tonal qualities aided him to add luster to raga Shivranjini based lagta nahin hain jee mera ujre dayar mein that evokes the original sentiment through rendition of prolonged vowel to accommodate expansive notes. Music and words seep through raga Desh based na kisi ki ankh ka nor hoon in endearing rupak taal as well as in raga Piloo based ja kahio unse naseem-e-sehar mera chain gaya meri neend gayee.

The dignified eroticism in Zafar’s shamsheer berehna maang ghazab intricately composed in delightful raga Gaud Sarang indicated his mastery over diligent pakar of the raga. His classical prowess shines through his adept handling of PTV produced gem based on raga Maru Bihag gujra bana ke le aa, set in teen taal and composed by Sohail Rana complete with masterful rendition of jhala (swift summing up of notes). Yet another classical rendition par excellence is gori karat singhar based on raga Bhairavi and set in teen taal through which the true range of vocal virtuosity of Habib Wali Mohammad could very well be gauged.

Displaying a rare ability he immortalised a noticeable ghazal of Moin Ahsan Jazbi, composing a very hummable mukhda, marne ki duaen kyun mangoon and the longevity of its hallmark alaap in kab mera nasheman ahle chaman brought national recognition to much neglected Ustad Qamar Jalavi. The hidden poetic talent of widely popular Ibne Safi, master spy story teller, was brought to fore by Habib Wali Mohammad through rendition of raga Eiman based rah-e-talab mein kaun kisi ka apne bhi begane hain composed by master composers, Lal Mohammad Iqbal. The dance sequence in this number vividly contrasts with the kharaj pitch projection of his voice.

As his mentor, it was befitting Sohail Rana to ask Habib Wali Mohammad to sing his raga Eiman based magnum opus aaj jaane ki zid na karo set in lilting dadra surrounded by jaltarang so emotively played in juxtaposition to his solid kharaj. Another national classic ae nigare watan tu salamat rahe written by Shair Lakhnavi and composed by Sohail Rana was the title song of Zarb-e-Azb military campaign launched against terrorism. TW


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