Monday, September 07, 2020
Friday, September 04, 2020
Listening to Iqbal Bano, the subcontinent's great ghazal singer.
A protest poem written by her friend Faiz Ahmed Faiz in the darkest days of Zia's military dictatorship, she defied his ban on public music and Faiz's 'leftist' poetry by appearing in a concert at Lahore's Railway Stadium before a crowd of 50,000.
This song went on to inspire a whole generation of young activists on both sides of the Indo-Pak border; today you can even hear Hum Dekhenge chanted by protesters in Occupied Kashmir!
Her voice is sublime, with a range and power equivalent to great African-American spirituals. Even if you don't know Urdu, please listen.
This rekindled the love for Urdu poetry I developed in college, and the song is equal to "We shall overcome" imho.
"All crowns will be toppled/All thrones overturned/And rise to heaven/Like cotton fluffs/When the final days come/The invisible poor and oppressed/Will finally be visible/And all will see/The face of God/...
The refrain and closing verse Hum Dekhenge (We shall see) is from the Quran, the leftist poet is using Islamic verses to rebuke the dictator who used religion to divide the country
This recording is from a performance the next year in Lahore's Alhamra Hall at the annual Faiz Festival. Iqbal Bano is said to have worn a black Sari in protest against the dictator's ban on the 'Indian' garment (he even banned kite flying, the sale of musical instruments and celebrations of the Hindu holiday of Holi).
The audience sang along with her and roared the refrain Hum Dekhenge! And then she did a remarkable thing, against the conventions of ghazal (Indo-Persian Sufi poetry). The performance is supposed to be by seated musicians and singers, but at the final stanza, she stood up in silent protest! The crowd went wild.
Zia's goons went around the next day and confiscated all the tapes they could find but the original had been hidden away and smuggled to Dubai where it spread back to India and Pakistan. The rest, is history.
Sadly, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Iqbal Bano are no longer with us but their song lives on in the hearts of oppressed people of India and Pakistan.