Sunday December 10, 2023

Of our patriotism and national songs

By Sidra Ali
August 14, 2022

In the 75 years since Pakistan came into being, the country has faced several bouts of political instability and financial crisis, yet the spirit of its people remains undeterred. Instead of falling victim to disenchantment in times of peril, the citizens of Pakistan express their passion and conviction to encourage the preservation of their beloved nation. The most popular method of this is the tradition of crowds of people coming together and singing our Qaumi Naghmay (national songs). Let us take time to rekindle our patriotism and spirit by remembering the most notable National Songs the people of this country produced in the last more than seven decades.

Even before Pakistan’s inception, some songs earned being called Qaumi Naghmay, due to them honouring Quaid-i-Azam as the Founding Father of Pakistan and recounting the struggle for freedom to gain independence. Amongst these is “Millat Ka Pasbaan Hai Muhammad Ali Jinnah”, written by Mian Bashir Ahmed, a leading member of the All India Muslim League, and being read at the historic assemblage on March 23, 1940, in Lahore during which the Pakistan Resolution was adopted. It was sung by Munawwar Sultana and Qadir Faridi in 1947 for Radio Pakistan Lahore as a tribute to all that Jinnah did for the country. Another notable song is “Chaand Roshan Chamakta Sitara Rahe”, written by Shaukat Thanvi, composed by Qadir Farid and sung by Dilshad Begum, it attains more significance as it had the approval of our beloved Quaid. It was aired on Radio Pakistan after Jinnah’s address to the nation on August 14, 1947.

Continuing towards the Qaumi Taranah, “Paak sar zameen”, composed by Ahmad G. Chagla in 1949, with lyrics by Hafeez Jalandhari added in 1952. Pakistan’s national anthem was publicly broadcasted for the first time on Radio Pakistan on August 13, 1954, sung by Hafeez Jullundhri himself. Since then, it has been covered by many of Pakistan’s top musical artists, with the most famous version being the performance involving 11 major singers of Pakistan: Ahmad Rushdi, Kaukab Jahan, Rasheeda Begum, Najam Ara, Naseema Shaheen, Zawar Hussain, Akhtar Abbas, Ghulam Dastagir, Anwar Zaheer and Akhtar Wasi Ali. In 1996, it was rendered in electric guitar for the first time by Pakistani rock band Junoon and in 2009, it was rendered as an acoustic instrumental by Pakistani musician Jehangir Aziz Hayat. Paak sar zameen is often ranked as one of the greatest national anthems ever released - and for good reason! With the anthem consisting of twenty-one musical instruments and thirty-eight different tones, hearing a crowd of people come together to sing it fills one with immense pride and satisfaction.

Besides the National Anthem, one of the earliest songs that showcased the patriotism of the people of Pakistan was “Mera Paigham Pakistan”, written by Jamiluddin Aali and composed by Niaz Ahmed, it was first played in 1954 via Radio Pakistan, Lahore. It later gained popularity when Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sang it in 1997.

During the Indo-Pak war of 1965, patriotic songs in Pakistan acquired a significant role in motivating and encouraging soldiers’ morale on the borders and rallied the nation. Noor Jehan alone recorded 12 songs, earning the title of Malika-e-Tarranum (Queen of Melody) for her services during war times. These included “Aye Watan Key Sajeelay Jawano” and “Har Lehza Hai Momin”. Classical singer Ustad Ammant Ali Khan sang “Aye Watan Pyare Watan Pak Watan” to glorify the motherland. Years later, patriotic songs became the driving force behind Pakistan’s sports campaigns in hockey, cricket and squash championships.

The 1970s-1980’s were a golden era in Pakistani music and with that came the inception of many memorable National Songs such as “Hum Zinda Qom Hain” by Tehseen Javed, The Benjamin Sisters (Nerissa, Beena and Shabana Benjamin) and Amjad Hussain in 1973. Following this is “Ye Wattan Tumhara Hai”, sung by the ‘King of Ghazal’ Mehdi Hassan in 1979. The same year, Shahnaz Begum released the infamous “Sohni Dharti Allah Rakhe” and “Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan”. In 1985, Nayyara Noor performed “Wattan Ki Mitti” and “Is Parcham Kay Saaye Taay Hum Ik Hain”.

Despite heavy government censorship in 1987, Pakistani television held a competition for its viewers to come up with a patriotic song. The winning track was “Dil Dil Pakistan” from the pop group Vital Signs. It became an instant hit, being deemed as ‘Pakistan’s second national anthem’ and catapulting Vital Signs to national fame.

In the following years, many Pakistani bands released patriotic songs, such as Haroon and Fakhir, from the band Awaz’s, “Aye Jawan” in 1997, Strings’ “Khwaab” in 2000, and Junoon’s “Dharti Kay Khuda” in 2001.

All these songs are remembered to this day, being covered by each upcoming new generation of Pakistani singers. On the 14th of August, during both officially held celebrations by offices, schools and festivals, as well as in casual get-togethers of family members and friend groups, people of all ages and ethnic groups come together and sing these songs at the top of their voices. Their words are known by all; their tune is immortalised. Truly, the passion of the citizens of Pakistan is to be envied.