• 27 Aug - 02 Sep, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Obituary

Celebrated Pakistani singer Nayyara Noor, often known as the ‘Nightingale of Pakistan’, adored by millions from both India and Pakistan for her soulful melodies, passed away after a brief illness, her family said, bringing the curtains down on the life of one of the last musical icons to represent the shared culture of India and Pakistan. Noor became one of Pakistan’s most iconic singers, known for her renditions of work by the revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Noor was 71, and had been under treatment for quite some time in Karachi, media reports said. “It is with heavy heart that I announce the passing of my beloved aunt (tayi) Nayyara Noor. May her soul R.I.P.,” her nephew Raza Zaidi tweeted.

She leaves behind an enviable legacy and a treasure trove of mellifluous renditions. Noor was born in Guwahati in 1950. Her father was an active member of the All-India Muslim League and hosted Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah during his trip to Assam before the Partition in 1947. Sometime in 1958, her family migrated to Lahore, Pakistan.

“Education was the be-all and end-all of our existence but music was the main source of entertainment,” a newspaper quoted her as saying.

She admitted that Kanan Bala and Begum Akhtar were their all-time favourites, with Lata Mangeshkar ‘a passion with everyone’. Interestingly, Noor had no formal training in music, but she was captivated by Akhtar’s ghazals and Bala’s bhajans since childhood.

While regaling her friends and teachers during a musical function at her alma mater – National College of Arts in Lahore – Professor Asrar Ahmad of Islamia College spotted her burgeoning talent. Noor, who was not a trained singer, said in an interview that it was not her plan to become a singer professionally, and it was merely a stroke of luck that she performed in her college, where a professor encouraged her to pursue a career.

Soon, Noor found herself singing for the university’s Radio Pakistan programmes. In 1971, she made her playback singing debut in Pakistani television serials and then seamlessly transitioned to films like Gharana and Tansen. She also performed at different events, enjoying a cult-like following among ghazal lovers in Pakistan and India.

Her famous ghazal rendition was Ae Jazba-e-Dil Ghar Main Chahoon, written by Behzad Lucknavi, a renowned Urdu poet. Noor also sang ghazals penned by poets like Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and also performed with the likes of Mehdi Hassan. Barkha Barse Chat Per, a rare Hindi poem by Faiz, which she rendered with her husband Sheharyar Zaidi in 1976 on his birthday was perhaps one of her most celebrated work.

At the peak of her career, Noor decided to marry Zaidi, and with time became finicky about doing live performances. “Music has been a passion with me but never been my top priority. I was a student and a daughter first and a singer later. After my marriage my primary roles have been those of a wife and a mother,” she had shared with a newspaper.

Noor was honoured with the title ‘Bulbul-e-Pakistan’ (Nightingale of Pakistan) in 2006. She was also honoured with the Pride of Performance Award that same year, and by 2012, she bid adieu to her professional singing career. In a career spanning on four decades, Noor won plenty of accolades – including the Nigar Award in 1973 for best playback singer for the film Gharana.

In a versatile career full of iconic songs, she will forever be remembered for her renditions of work by Pakistan’s famous revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz – her music released in a 1976 compilation called Nayyara Sings Faiz. She also sang some of Pakistan’s most memorably patriotic songs, including Sohni Dharti, as well as countless ones for Pakistani films.

The announcement of her death resulted in an outpouring of grief among her fans, who shared their memories and clips of her iconic songs.

In a statement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed his grief and said Noor’s death would cause ‘irreparable damage’ to the music world.

“Be it a ghazal or a song, whatever Nayyara Noor sang she sang it with perfection. The void created by Nayyara Noor’s death will never be filled,” Sharif tweeted. – Editorial Desk