‘Noor Jehan was only in love with her music’

Published February 18, 2024
Noor Jehan’s daughter Nazia Ejaz Khan, music composer and actor Arshad Mahmud are in conversation with actor and musician Ahmed Ali Butt at a KLF session on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi
Noor Jehan’s daughter Nazia Ejaz Khan, music composer and actor Arshad Mahmud are in conversation with actor and musician Ahmed Ali Butt at a KLF session on Saturday.—Fahim Siddiqi

KARACHI: An engaging post-lunch session on the second day of the 15th Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) was dedicated to the iconic singer Madam Noor Jehan, moderated by her grandson, the actor and musician Ahmed Ali Butt.

The programme was held in the main garden of the venue and before it began, songs of the great vocalist were played to give the audience a flavor of her immense talent.

Butt first invited renowned artist and Noor Jehan’s daughter Nazia Ejaz Khan on stage to shed light on the life and work of her mother. She said, “The way I understand her as a woman now is different from the one that I had in the past when I [only] looked at her as my mother. She was a single mother. I understand her struggle a lot better. She and I used to talk a lot.

“At the time there were some people who wanted to make a documentary on her. I asked her about it as to how she’d be portrayed because she was such a great mother, had done so many things [in the field of art], a larger-than-life figure. She thought for a while and replied, ‘Main ne gana gaya hai’ (‘I sang songs.’) I think that the one thing that she truly loved in her life was her talent, her music.”

Then eminent music composer and actor Arshad Mahmud was called on stage. He said, “I met her [Noor Jehan] for the first time at Faiz sahib’s place. It was a breathtaking experience. Afterwards I joined EMI. I had the privilege of signing five contracts with her. She was a thorough professional and never interfered in my work.

“The most important thing about her was that she could see through people (mardam shanas), know what they were like from her initial meeting with them. The other aspect of her personality was that she knew the importance of her art (funn shanas). She knew about musicians how much they were familiar with the art form.”

“Also, she allowed me to be part of her leisure life. She had a favorite Chinese restaurant [in Lahore]. Many a time after recording, she’d say to me ‘let’s go there’. Since we’d go after the recording [at night], the restaurant would be closed. But for her, they’d reopen it. I had a similar experience at Karachi’s Bundu Khan restaurant. I go there only because I had visited it with Noor Jehan,” he said.

Another session — Urdu Shairi ke Darakhsan Sitaray — was an enlightening conversation between Zehra Nigah and Kishwar Naheed, according to a press release sent by the organisers.

They spoke about renowned Urdu poets and highlighted the significance of Urdu poetry for its amazing capacity to reflect history, politics, and philosophy without compromising on the aesthetics of linguistics.

The richness and depth of Urdu can challenge the best of literature around the world and the youth must be engaged in exploring history, philosophy, and cognitive diversity, through reading and understanding of Urdu poetry.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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