Nabeel Zafar describes icon of an age
Folk Artist – Alam Lohar was known to be accident prone. He was involved in many accidents but always came out lucky till the final disaster struck him. His prescient composition, ‘wajan mariaan bulaya ka yi waar mein kisi ne meri gal nasuni’ came eerily true when he met an accident and died on the road before receiving medical help.
Alam Lohar was an ace folk singer with a distinct style and his voice had an amazing range that overcame everything in its way. Born in a family of blacksmiths in village Aach Goach of district Gujrat he opted to sing instead of following the family trade. Blessed with a prodigal talent and retentive memory he honed his singing skills and rendered centuries old folk lore. He gained renown when he rendered Heer Waris Shah’s in 36 styles and forms and his performance was rated second to none. He is known to have recorded his first album at the age of 13 and his musical output has outsold all other singers in Pakistan according to records of HMV Pakistan in 1979.
Alam Lohar dominated folk singing genre from 1930s till his untimely demise in 1979. His folk singing was unique in its content and rendition. His high tenor voice suited to mesmerize his large audiences. He pioneered singing with the typical ‘Chimta’ that added lustre to his inimitable performance.
Alam Lohar was very active on stage and hogged attention all the time he was performing. He was adept at keeping a grip on his audience by incessantly moving on the stage. His incredible stamina while performing intricate nuances of classically composed folk tunes was greatly admired. In his childhood he was very good in rendering Sufiana Kalaam, Punjabi folk stories and would perform for gatherings of elders.
His rural performances were ultimately noticed and he was recognised as a folk prodigy. His unusual style, profound rendering and unmistakable stamp of veracity gave him an added advantage. Subsequently his performance was internationally lauded in 1970s when during British Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, he participated in a singing competition in the UK between all Commonwealth countries in which Alam Lohar won the award of best performance and was also presented with a gold medal.
Alam Lohar was widely known in Punjab as Sher-e-Punjab or ‘Heerah’ and he was feted for his extraordinary contribution to folk music. Alam Lohar was also a poet and wrote many of his songs himself that were marvels of simplicity and poetic pathos. He also had another quality that he used books of Sufi saints and stories and brought them in song format which gave his songs a lyrical content which could make people cry and exclaim with joy at the same time.
As the pioneer of introducing the writings of Saiful Malook and Mirza Shabaan in song format Alam Lohar could sing all night long and sometimes without music. Once famous he organised a full-fledged theatre comprising of orchestra and budding singing talent. He along with his entourage toured all over Punjab for religious and seasonal festivals and was one of the first Pakistani singer to sing internationally in almost all countries where Pakistanis reside.
His singing repertoire was extremely rich and he did not need much apart from that because his audience would insist on hearing his popular numbers. His famous numbers are Dharti Panj Daryavan Di, Dilwala dukhra nahin kisse noon sunayee da, Saiful Malook, Qissa Hazrat Yousaf, Mar ke modha hauly jaye sorry akhgaye, Bol mitti diya bawiya, Jugni, Mirza, Qissa Karbala, Kalam Baba Bulleyh Shah and SohniMahiwal.
His outstanding rendition that acquired international popularity was Jugni that he sung in different modes. He created and defined his Jugni differently as a symbol of social awareness and happy tidings for people. Jugni is now a recognised folk addition sung by many artists in the length and breadth of the country. It is the strength of Alam Lohar’s performance that Jugni is not only confined to rural areas but is very popular in urban towns and cities.
Alam Lohar died in an accident near Sham ki Bhaitiyan on 3 July, 1979 and was laid to rest in Lala Musa, the town made famous by Malika-e-Mauseeqi Roshanara Begum. His contribution was recognised and feted by the government of Pakistan by posthumously awarding him the Pride of Performance medal. Alam Lohar and his contribution will always remain a part of Pakistani folk lore which he so painstakingly embellished. The Weekender