Queen of Melody

Noor Jehan is common history between India and Pakistan, and will always be cherished and honoured.

By Gulnaz Nawaz | April 2022

Noor Jahan’s artistic journey led her from Allah Wasai to Baby Noor Jehan, then to Madam Noor Jehan, and finally to the title of Malika-e-Tarannum (Queen of Melody) in a country brimming with female singers. She was a feisty lady who moved through life at breakneck speed, leading a dazzling existence full with hot entanglements. Her journey began long before the Partition. She would have continued to sing in India if she had not crossed over in 1947. Noor Jehan was the first female star in Indian cinema, and she helped to popularize playback singing. She impacted a generation of vocalists, including Lata Mangeshkar, before initiating music in Pakistan and encouraging future generations.

She was born on September 21, 1926, in Kasur, the hometown of Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah. Malika-e Taranum was a queen of substance, famed for her silk saris, brilliant and dazzling eye make-up, hairdos, and gleaming jewellery. She had a highly admired demeanour; she could sing in a multitude of languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, and Punjabi, and she had recorded more than 10,000 songs over her singing career. She was an expert at displaying charm and had a captivating appearance. Her persona was supported by an exceptionally full-throated but soft, velvety voice that touched the high notes with felicity while retaining in control of the sur with strength. She was as pure and innocent as a mountain stream. Following India’s partition in 1947, she moved to Pakistan and struggled for a few years to establish herself. She achieved great success in Pakistani films as well as the music industry, thanks to her perseverance and hard work.

Ravishing Noor Jehan pre-partition in Indian films.

She was born into a Muslim family with an uncommon musical history. She was exposed to the world of show business at an early age. She began singing when she was five years old and had early classical vocal instruction from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. He also taught her how to act on stage, and she quickly developed into a superb and confident performer. She acquired an interest in acting and singing, and as a child star, she made her first film appearance. She grew into a lovely young woman with a golden voice, and her first professional role was in the enormously successful Hindi film ‘Khandaan.’

She infused her singing with emotional modulations and poetic sentiments, utilizing her classical expertise to its fullest. According to Lata Mangeshkar, Noor Jehan’s vocal range allowed her to sing as low or as high as she wished while maintaining the same quality of voice. Aawaaz De Kahaan Hai is intrinsically tied to Noor Jehan’s brief stay in India, and it defines her musically in the Indian film industry. Chan Wey (1951), directed by her and her husband, was her debut feature film in Pakistan.

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