Uzair Ali mentions the wonderful work of an
It was very fortunate to watch late Zubaida Khanum’s TV interview just before she passed away. Her interview was a model of humility and simplicity. No one could have believed that here was a performer who has made outstanding contribution to popular film music in Pakistan giving hits one after the other both in Urdu and Punjabi. Although her musical work is prodigious by any standard but she always remained a shy and withdrawn housewife married to film cameraman Riaz Bukhari. The voice of Zubeida Khanum songs in films of 1950s and 60s caused sensation amongst listeners who heard her on radio and repeatedly wrote to radio stations for playing her songs. In a short singing career of 8 years she sung 257 (152 Urdu and 105 Punjabi) songs in 147 movies.
It was during the voluntary withdrawal of Noor Jahan from Cineworld that Zubeida Khanum got her chance. A good-looking girl she was initially interested in acting but was soon picked up by music directors for playback singing. In her inimitable sultry voice she was once dubbed Geeta Dutt of Pakistan but her scintillating voice was of an even better quality. She represented the carefree beauty of village culture in an extremely refreshing way. Her renditions were famous on both sides of the border and she was greatly appreciated for her performance.
It was indeed surprising to listen to such a melodious voice singing effortlessly although she was an ‘ataaie’ (gifted) or without any formal family musical connection. Amidst ‘rubabis’ or musicians of ‘gharanas’ or traditional music families, Zubeida’s talent was unique and universally admired. She soon became the favourite singer of many famous music composers of Lahore film industry who composed outstanding tunes for her and she never disappointed them.
Zubeida got her first break when legendary composer Rashid Attre composed a lilting number ‘Gallan sun kai mahi de naal meriyan dupatta beimaan ho gaya,’which she sang with considerable panache. This song was a typical ‘tappa’ sung with such virtuosity that it became the favourite song of males and females equally. The punctuating breaks between the song gave it an extra edge which Zubaida exceedingly exploited. Another song by the same composer ‘Raatan merian banake Rabbahanerian’ was in contrast a sad song but Zubeida rendered it with same virtuosity.
In 1956 Rehman Verma composed for her a profoundly effervescent Urdu song ‘balam tum haargaye jeeta mera pyar ho’ that reflected the sonorous angles of Zubeida’s voice. In 1957 Zubeida sang for composer Safdar Hussain a song that became legendary, ‘Laila Laila Laila’ a smattering of Urdu and Persian words written by poet Qateel Shifai. This song got remixed frequently. She also sang a duet with Salim Raza composed by same composer ‘chand takay chup chup keoon chikah joor se’ that is a vintage Bhairvi number.
In the same year Zubeida sang a song that became her signature song and also part of Pakistan’s music lore. Composed for film Saat Lakh in Rag Pahari by Rashid Attre the song ‘aaye mausam rangeelay suhane’ still sounds fresh and is a given for mehndi functions in Pakistani marriages. She also sang a teasing number ‘ghunghat uthaloon ya ghoonghat nikaloon’ in which the composer picked up asthai with remarkable flourish and peppered it with nice musical interludes.
In 1959, Khurshid Anwar composed immortal music for film Koel and gave many songs to Noor Jahan but the one song that Zubaida sung for him ‘dil jala na dil wale’ was considered pick of the film. It was composed with brief instrumental accompaniments embellishing her voice and it is still rated as a vintage alluring song.
She sang an unforgettable number ‘teri ulfat mein sanam dil ne bohat dard sahe’ composed by Rashid Attre that is a fulsome sad song sung very sentimentally. Rashid Attre also composed a fast Punjabi song for her ‘mera dil channa kuch da khidona’ which she sang beautifully.
Her solo and duet with comedian Zareef composed in Bhairvi by little known composer Rafiq Ali ‘buray naseeb mere veriho ya pyar mera’ is deeply steeped in sad notes and sung exceptionally well. Contrary to the sad vibes she gave away so well, her number ‘nichi thiye sajna diye’ conveys a fresh girlish excited sentiment.
One of Zubeida’s immortal songs was ‘dila thehr ja yaar da nazara lendey’ composed by Rashid Attre. This song was also sung by Munir Hussain. Another hit was ‘sayyonni mera dil dhadke’ in which she rendered the word ‘dharke’ the way it should be rendered. Her strong vocals come to fore in Feroz Nizami’s composition ‘rotay hain chum chum nain’ that was huge hit and was frequently remixed. Feroz Nizami also gave her another song ‘meethi meethi batyon se jiya najala’ which is very upbeat composition with modern connotation. GA Chishti scored a number for Zubeida ‘resham da lachalakve’ which was later sung by Musarrat Nazir in her solo volume. The Weekender