KARACHI, March 3: Distinguished archivist and oral historian Lutfullah Khan passed away after a protracted illness here on Saturday morning. He was 95.
He is survived by a wife, two sons and three daughters.
Mr Khan was born in Madras (now Chennai) in 1916. He migrated to Pakistan in Oct 1947, a couple of months after the country’s independence, and joined the advertising business. He remained in the profession for more than a half a century.
Mr Khan had a profound interest in the arts. He learned classical music from an early age and was a connoisseur of the genre. He started dabbling in the field of writing in 1933 and in 1946 picked up a camera and became an amateur photographer. A prolific writer, he penned many essays and articles for different newspapers and magazines, a majority of which were compiled into books. As early as the 1930s two of his books had already hit the newsstands. Some of the more well-known of his publications include Tamasha-i-Ahl-i-Qalam, Sur Ki Talash and Hijraton Ke Silsiley.
In the early 1950s Mr Khan began recording the voices of renowned artists, poets, writers and other eminent individuals on a newly-bought tape recorder, a passion that remained with him for the rest of his life and earned him much renown. His audio library contains perhaps the largest collection of famous voices in the country. Ranging from music stalwarts like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Roshan Ara Begum to literary masters such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Josh Malihabadi, Mr Khan had recordings of all voices of repute. It was a testimony to his zeal for the arts that artists and men of letters loved to visit his studio for recording sessions. He received many awards for his services to the nation, including the Pride of Performance. Speaking to Dawn about Mr Khan, writer Anwar Maqsood said: “We were friends for 40 years. We had a shared love of music. I also have a collection, but his was bigger and more organised. He could tell you when and where Mehdi Hasan sang a certain song and what number Noor Jehan crooned when she was in the family way etc. He was an extremely cultured man — be it the way he dressed or the manner in which he wrote — and one of the most outstanding persons I have known in my life. The good thing is that he was very well appreciated in his lifetime; people loved him immensely which was why they would gladly record for him. The only thing that is worth pondering over is that he did not hand over his stuff to anyone. Lord knows what will happen to the material he collected?”
Poet Iftikhar Arif said: “I know it’s a cliché but if anyone was an institution unto himself, it was Lutfullah Khan. He was a classicist in the true sense of the word. The way he preserved music and voices was exemplary. I’ve seen institutions do the kind of things that he did. Personality-wise he was a modest man. If this nation is not able to preserve his collection, it will be a huge misfortune, because I’ve seen treasure troves being destroyed at radio and TV offices.”
Music collector Sultan Arshad said: “He had tremendous knowledge of the world of music. His collections are extraordinary. I don’t think anybody else has a compilation of such magnitude. It is possible that someone has a music library, but the way he recorded poets and their works is unprecedented.”
Writer Zahida Hina commented: “Karachi has been impoverished. I’d been visiting him since 1969 when he used to live near Cosmopolitan Club. I was a huge fan of his work. Many institutions wouldn’t achieve the feat which he was able to.”
Lutfullah Khan’s Namaz-i-janaza was held at Sultan Masjid after Asr and he was buried in the Defence Phase IV Graveyard.
Soyem is on Monday from Asr to Maghrib at his residence: 75/1, street 15, off Khayaban-i-Seher, Defence.