Way back in the late 1950s or perhaps a little later a young, slim and shy-looking woman started getting noticed by the film journals that found promoting heroines in-the-making more rewarding than praising the stars that had made the grade.

Farida Khanum she was called. Her protector, Mukhtar Begum, the celebrated singer of Agha Hashar’s days, wanted Farida to be an actor while many others saw for her a career in singing.

She herself appeared to be keen to move out of her protector’s wings. A couple of false starts as an actor and patronage of a leading industrialist helped save Farida Khanum for music. The compulsion to stay away from film studios facilitated her rise as a radio artist and she soon established herself in what are called light-classical compositions, especially variations of thumri and dadra.

The gaps between her performances gave Farida Khanum time and opportunity to complete her training in classical raags and as her voice got richer in timbre and resonance with age so did the ranks of her admirers.

Always keen to learn and experiment she surprised many, especially the younger students of music, by joining Raza Kazim’s experiments with the new veena he had designed, and won many hearts.

She has been able to retain the freshness of her singing also by not washing her talent in playback chores and not exhausting herself in frequent concerts. Today hundreds of thousands of music  lovers not only in Pakistan but also in India and across continents get carried away the moment she starts humming the evergreen hits Aaj jaaney ki zid na karo or woh hamsay huway ham kalam, Allah Allah.

With her rich repertoire of the subcontinent’s finest traditions in music she can not only hold her own against the new waves of hybrid music but also remind the people of how magnificent the shared music of the people of India and Pakistan is and how much more glorious it could have been if philistines had not intervened to undercut the roots of culture. – Dawn report

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