By Harjap Singh Aujla
South Asia Post Issue 35 Vol II, March 15, 2007
Master Ghulam Haider was one of the all time greats amongst the pioneering music directors of India. His life story is extremely fascinating. His meteoric rise can be compared to that of a foot soldier, rising to the rank of a general. I was perplexed to know that every write up about him starts from the age of 25 or even later and ends up at his demise.
No one has cared to research about his roots, his illustrious parentage and his initial grooming that blossomed into a genius. Even there are two stories about his date and place of birth. I think we the Punjabis need to do thorough research on his impressionist childhood that laid the foundation of a trend setting maestro.
There are two conflicting accounts about Ghulam Haiderâ€™s date and place of birth. The so far recorded history shows his birth in Sind. Another document says that he was born in Hyderabad Sind. But there is also a story, narrated to me by none other than Bhai Partap Singh of Amritsar. Bhai Partap Singhâ€™s elders knew Ghulam Haiderâ€™s family intimately. He told me that Ghulam Haider was born in the walled city of Amritsar near the Golden Temple and all his upbringing took place in Amritsar. I think, in the interest of fair play, more research is needed to clear this confusion about a great genius. I was also told by S. Mohinder Music Director that Ghulam Haiderâ€™s father was a Muslim by faith but was held in high esteem by the Sikh community, because he used to perform Sikh religious classical and semi-classical music in Sikh places of worship and the homes of Guru Nanakâ€™s followers. In Sikh circles Ghulam Haiderâ€™s father was called Bhai Mehar. He hailed from a respected Gharana of Rababi musicians dating back to the times of Guru Nanakâ€™s fifteenth century disciple, a musician, Bhai Mardana.
According to Bhai Partap Singh, Bhai Mehar was bestowed with a melodious voice. He had a good knowledge of most of the thirty one Ragas mentioned in holy Guru Granth Sahib as well as most of the â€œTaalsâ€ used by Sikh classical musicians. Bhai Mehar and his ancestors had a mastery over ancient string musical instruments like â€œSarandaâ€, â€œTausâ€ and â€œRababâ€ in addition to the popular contemporary instrument â€œHarmoniumâ€ he could play â€œTablaâ€, â€œDholakâ€, â€œGharaâ€, and â€œPakhawajâ€ quite proficiently. All this knowledge was passed on by Bhai Mehar to his son Ghulam Haider. Bhai Meharâ€™s desire was to see his son as an important part of his own group of musicians called â€œâ€Jathaâ€. But young Ghulam Haider perhaps had other intentions and he succeeded in what ever he did.
My (writerâ€™s) father was born on December 22, 1905, and he did his B.A. and M.A. from Government College Lahore during mid nineteen twenties. He said that Ghulam Haider was of his age. That means Ghulam Haider could have been born in 1926 or 1927 also. The exact date of birth of such a great person needs to be confirmed through proper research.
Both Amritsar and neighbouring Lahore had decent dental colleges, but there is hardly any authentic information about Ghulam Haiderâ€™s enrolment into a dental college. This also requires more research, because by age twenty, there are conclusive proofs that he was already composing music for live performances in Lahore. He was the first music composer in Punjab, whoâ€™s innovations introduced Western instruments in North Indian music.
Ghulam Haider might have visited Calcutta, because that great Eastern Indian Metropolis, during the nineteen thirties and forties, used to be the fountainhead of musical talent in the Indian Sub-continent. Being an expensive city, it was difficult to make both ends meet in Calcutta without engaging in some kind of profession. Another music director Shiv Dayal Batish agreed that Ghulam Haider might have served for brief periods in â€œAlfred Theatre Company Calcuttaâ€ and â€œAlexandra Theatrical Company Calcuttaâ€. But must have returned to base soon afterwards.
I think the inspiration for becoming the music director in a theatre in Lahore came from his experience of such musical theatre companies that were mushrooming in Calcutta. All the big and small music composers need to go back to the basics in order to refresh their knowledge of the finer points of classical music. Since for quite sometime he was out of the shadow of his father, he perhaps thought it appropriate to straighten the kinks under the expert guidance of Pandit Babu Ganesh Lal in Lahore. Dalip Chandra Vedi was another great teacher in Lahore.
During his pre-talkie years in Lahore, he came in contact with some of the theatre companies of the city. There were two types of theatre companies in that city. The first category included the Norah Richards inspired drama companies. Parsis owned some of such theatres. The second, less serious and more entertaining category, consisted of musical theatres, which featured dance and song events and just â€œGeetâ€ and â€œGhazalâ€ mehfils. Ghulam Haider got in touch with the song and dance theatres, The concept of dance and music theatres came from the nineteenth century London, which was the role model for early twentieth century Calcutta, Bombay and Lahore. The music and dance theatres of Lahore were the work stations where Ghulam Haider thought his talents could be best utilized. He took upon himself the responsibility of composing the tunes from his vast treasure of inherited â€œRagasâ€ and â€œTaalsâ€. The people of Lahore fell in love with his newly coined tunes, ever changing â€œTaalsâ€ and his wizardry with harmonium.
The years from 1930 to 1934 were the years of evolution of what we know about Ghulam Haider. Some of the female singers, who used to sing in the theatres and Mehfils of Lahore, included Amir Bano, Nawab Bai, Zohra Bai of Kapurthala and Mukhtar Begum. Zohra used to commute from Kapurthala to Lahore to perform. Umra-o-Zia Begum was the youngest to enter this field in 1933. As the films crossed over from silent to talkies, a new breed of talent was needed. Script writing, elocution and speech making skills were in demand. My late father saw Ghulam Haider in person in Lahore. My father used to tell me that Ghulam Haider as a music composer introduced the concept of â€œPreludeâ€ and â€œInterludeâ€ in instrumentation even during the pre-talkie era. This capability made his style unique. After hearing his compositions, his preludes and interludes, you can not make a mistake in identifying his special style. There were two other Punjabi music directors, who preceded him. They were Ustad Jhande Khan and Rafique Ghaznavi B.A., but they both flourished in Bombay, while Ghulam Haider held the fort in Lahore for a long time before making it big in Bombay in 1944.
My father told me that Ghulam Haider was a highly romantic person in nature. He found one captivating beauty in actress singer Umra-o-Zia Begum (some people spell her as Umrazia Begum). Ghulam Haider instantly got romantically involved with this talented character. After a brief period of courtship, mostly during tune making opportunities, rehearsals and recording sessions, they decided to tie the knot and from the day of â€œNikkahâ€ they never looked back until death put them apart in 1953. Their romantic association gave several soulful â€œGhazalsâ€ and â€œGeetsâ€ to the World of music. Some of them have survived to date.
Ghulam Haider was a great discoverer of latent musical abilities. Umra-o-Zia Begum was his first such find. But after marriage she bade farewell to acting and soon thereafter she stopped singing also and settled down into performing the daily chores of an Indian household lady.
Ghulam Haiderâ€™s innings as a film music director started in 1934 and ended in 1953. Sometimes it appears that the nature is acting very cruelly. Ghulam Haider died when he was needed most as an elder statesman of music and a guide to the budding music directors in the newly born nation of Pakistan.
PRIOR to his first film job, Ghulam Haider was a freelance music director for live music concerts for a few years. Janki Nath Kumar and brothers were a music oriented business family in Lahore. They opened the first electrical music recording studio in the city and a records selling store in historic Anarkali Bazaar. In the company of my father, I have seen this store, when it was renamed His Masterâ€™s Voice Shop by its new Muslim owners after migration of the founding family to India. Janki Nath Kumar and brothers were recording music on three minute a side 78 RPM discs under the brand name â€œJenophoneâ€.
They employed Ghulam Haider as their music director. This company produced a lot of Punjabi and Urdu music, both film and non film. The records of film â€œSwarag Ki Seerhiâ€ (1935) and â€œMajnuâ€ (1935) under the music direction of Ghulam Haider were produced and sold as â€œJenophone Recordsâ€. Umra-o-Zia Begum was the female singer of Swarag Ki Seerhiâ€. This film did not do too well at the box office and Ghulam Haiderâ€™s effort went by and large unnoticed. This was the time when Calcuttaâ€™s â€œNew Theatresâ€ was churning out hit movies and Rai Chandra Boral was the most famous music director. Legendry singer K. L. Saigal was the most celebrated male singer. Others included Pankaj Mullick and K.C. Dey. Pankaj Mullick was a big tag music director too, who composed tunes for K.L. Saigal too.
Lahore was not a big film production center and the next three years went without any film music contract for Ghulam Haider. But he did cut some hotly selling private discs in both Punjabi and Urdu. Although the first ever Punjabi film was made in 1934, but somehow even its print is not available.
All India Radio started its fifth radio station in Lahore in 1936. The studios were built in 1937, when broadcasts of live music started. Shamshad Begum started as a casual singer at the new radio station in 1939, but most of her tunes were composed by Master Inayat Hussain and Budh Singh Taan. Ghulam Haider heard Shamshad Begumâ€™s voice over the radio and liked it for Punjabi music.
Ghulam Haiderâ€™s first big break came in 1939. The famous Pancholi family headed by Roshan Lal Shori made a Punjabi film. This family at that time owned a film studio also in Lahore. The film was â€œGul â€“ e - Bakavliâ€. It was a low budget film and could be released only in Punjab. But this film recovered all its costs from Lahore and Amritsar only. It was in this film that famous actress singer Noorjehan was discovered by Master Ghulam Haider as Baby Noorjehan. It had a couple of very popular songs. One of them was â€œShava Jawanian Maaane, Akha Na Morhin Peele, Shala Jawannian Maaneâ€ sung in the voice of Noorjehan. The other song was â€œPinjre de vich quaid Jawajiâ€. Connoisseurs of good musical voices all over India took notice of these songs and the singerâ€™s voice. Around that very time Ghulam Haider decided to give chance to Shamshad Begum for playback singing. Some people attribute the discovery of versatile Punjabi singer Zeenat Begum to Ghulam Haider, but music director S. Mohinder firmly believes that Zeenat Begum was discovered by Pandit Amar Nath, the elder brother of the famous duo of music directors Pandit Husna Lal Bhagat Ram. Zeenatâ€™s earliest records bear testimony to S. Mohinderâ€™s contension.
During the thirties and forties, the big name music directors kept their exclusive orchestras on their payrolls. Ghulam Haider wonâ€™t share his orchestra with Pandit Amarnath and Pandit Amarnath will not share his orchestra with Pandit Gobind Ram. As a result identification of music directors became possible from the sound of the orchestra. In addition to the ancient Indian string instruments, Ghulam Haider introduced Piano, clarionet and Violin into his orchestra.
From 1039 to 1944, Ghulam Haider composed music for five Punjabi films including Gul â€“ e â€“ Bakawali (1939), Yamla Jatt (1940), Sassi Punnoon (1940), Chaudhry (1941), Sehti Murad (1042) and Gul Baloch with partial music (1943). All these Punjabi films made good money. Yamla Jatt was the most successful film. Its hero was Kapurthala born famous villain of Bollywood Pran (full name Pran Nath Sikand). Noorjehan was one of the lady actresses. Its two songs a solo â€œKankan diyan faslan pakkiyan neâ€ and a duet â€œAa dukhre phol laiyeâ€ based on famous folk Punjabi tune â€œMahiyaâ€ were very popular. Film â€œChaudhryâ€ was also a great musical. Its songs â€œBus bus veh dholna, ki tere naal bolnaâ€, â€œChhum chhum ohdi kaisi sohni chaalâ€, â€œIk duniya navin vasa laiyeâ€ and â€œSajna tere bina jee nahiyon lagdaâ€ were all musical masterpieces. By this time Ghulam Haider had established himself as the master of prelude and interlude in music. If you listen carefully to the prelude of film â€œYamla Jattâ€ song â€œAa Dukhre Fol Layeâ€, the orchestration appears very vibrant with the domination of piano. Without a good mastery over classical music, it is not possible to keep all the instruments of the orchestra in perfect â€œSurâ€. Ghulam Haiderâ€™s orchestra was perfectly in â€œSurâ€.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Bhai Santa Singh of Amritsar was the leading musician at the Golden Temple. He and Ghulam Haider were buddies from childhood. Bhai Santa Singh was famous for singing at very high notes and in very slow beat a unique combination , he used to sing Sikh religious music at All India Radio Lahore. Ghulam Haider persuaded Bhai Santa Singh to get some of his favourite Sikh Musicals numbers recorded for posterity. Bhai Santa Singh was initially opposed to this, but eventually he agreed to record. The tunes were Bhai Santa Singhâ€™s own, or traditional handed down from generation to generation. Ghulam Haider did not make any alteration, but only provided orchestration, which included preludes and interludes. The recordings came out so good that, even after more than six decades of recordings, the eight numbers featured on four 78 rpm records are to date considered the top musicians choice in Sikh circles. The Sikhs will always be indebted to Bhai Santa Singh and Ghulam Haider for giving them this invaluable gift of divine music in finest form.
Late Master Madan was a musician par excellence and the pride of Punjab. He died an untimely death at the tender age of twelve. But before his death, he gave the gift of eight recordings, which included two evergreen â€œGhazalsâ€, two â€œThumrisâ€, two â€œSikh Religious Numbersâ€ and two â€œPunjabi Songsâ€. If you listen to his Punjabi folk numbers, you will notice that the accompanying orchestra bears the distinct stamp of Ghulam Haiderâ€™s music. The same can be said about the religious numbers too. All this happened while Ghulam Haider was in Lahore.
While in Lahore, Ghulam Haider composed the music for a few more Hindi/Urdu films. These included â€œKhazanchiâ€ (1941), â€œZameendarâ€ (1942), â€œKhandaanâ€ (1942â€) and â€œPoonjiâ€ (1943). That was the era of the domination of the Indian film scene by the music directors from Bengal. The Bengali big wigs included Rai Chandra Boral, Timir Baran and Anil Biswas. The Bengali music was considered highly melodious. The â€œTaalâ€ identifying drum instruments like â€œTablaâ€ and â€œDholakâ€ were not accorded prominence, such instruments used to be kept in the background. India was exposed to this kind of music only. But when Ghulam Haiderâ€™s â€œKhandaanâ€ was released all over india, it featured drums far more prominently and the people all over the nation fell in love with the â€œTaalâ€ or the beat. Ghulam Haiderâ€™s instrumentation was also, in accordance with the Punjabi character, very vibrant and vigorous. His next two films in a row â€Zameendarâ€ and â€œPoonjiâ€ went on to prove that prominence of â€œTaalâ€ is the latest craze amongst the music buffs of not only the Punjab but also of the rest of India.
Most of the contemporary crops of music directors in India and Pakistan for their music compositions normally prefer mostly two common â€œTaalsâ€ i.e. â€œDadraâ€ and â€œKehrwaâ€ or at the most â€œTeentaalâ€, but Ghulam Haider introduced a number of uncommon â€œTallsâ€ also. This would not have been possible without a thorough knowledge of the classical music of India and the exotic â€œTallsâ€ used by the tradition bound Sikh religious musicians. The revolutionary step of giving prominence to a variety of uncommon â€œTaalsâ€ gave Ghulam Haiderâ€™s name a household recognition in India.
K. L Saigal, during those days, was the leading most male film singer in India. He hailed from Jullundur in Punjab, but it is a pity that Ghulam Haider could not have the opportunity to compose tunes for him. A second generation music director from Punjab Khurshid Anwar, was however luckier, he composed the music for a Saigal â€“Suraiya starrer â€œParvanaâ€, which became a very popular hit.
Rather than insistence on heavy classical compositions attempted by most of the other music directors, Ghulam Haiderâ€™s lighter style of applied classical music was better received by the cinema going public. This got him fame and a spate of invitations from Bombay, which by mid forties had replaced Calcutta as the leading film city of India.
Another brilliant Punjabi music director Shyam Sunder, with his unique style of compositions, arrived in Bombay in 1943. One of his earliest movies â€œGaon Ki Goriâ€ featuring Noorjehanâ€™s voice became a musical hit. In 1944, Ghulam Haider also moved to Bombay lock stock and barrel, leaving behind all the glorious memories of his youth in Lahore and childhood in Amritsar.
Before settling down to the rough and tumble of film music in Bombay, he invited a fellow Lahori actress - singer Suraiya, who was racing fast towards the top, to record a couple of â€œNaatsâ€ in Punjabi. I (the writer) am in proud possession of this music. These perhaps are the only Punjabi numbers ever sung by Suraiya.
Ghulam Haider did music for two films in 1944. These were â€œChal Chal Re Naujawanâ€, a big ticket film and â€œPhoolâ€. â€œBhaiâ€ was the next venture. Then came Mehboob Khanâ€™s famous film â€œHumayunâ€ in 1945. â€œShamaâ€ (1946) was a great musical. Just like the USA, where all diverse nationalities get into the grand melting pot and become Americans, Bombay creates a unique amalgam of film and music makers that make it Bollywood. If Ghulam Haider gave a new style to Bombay, he in turn gained a lot from the grand melting pot experience of the city. As music director S. Mohinder puts it, â€œEvery music director hailing from any part of India and arriving in Bombay, gains immensely from the music directors representing other cultures and participates in the creation of a new amalgam called the composite music of Indiaâ€. Ghulam Haiderâ€™s style also underwent a see change, it happened especially after most of the members of his orchestra went back to Lahore after an explosion in Bombay.
In 1947, Ghulam Haider did the music for â€œMehndiâ€ and composed some music for film â€œMajboorâ€. Pakistan came into being on August 14, 1947. Surinder Kaur and her elder sister Parkash Kaur had to leave Lahore virtually penniless. Parkash Kaur quickly moved from Amritsar to New Delhi, but Surinder Kaur stayed put in Ferozepore. Ghulam Haider had heard both sisters, while they were still in Lahore. From Bombay he sent a message to Surinder Kaur to come to the film city. By early 1948, Surinder Kaur arrived in Bombay.
Ghulam Haider had the intention to make Surinder Kaur a playback singer for film â€œShaheedâ€. Surinder Kaur did sing a few very popular songs for â€œShaheedâ€, but before that Husna Lal Bhagat Ram got her voice recorded for a Suraiya starrer film â€œPyaar Ki Jeetâ€. Surinder Kaurâ€™s first song became a hit. Soon music director Showqat Dehlavi used Surinder Kaurâ€™s voice for a solo and a duet with Mukesh. Surinder Kaur sang five songs for Khurshid Anwar too in Madhubala starrer film â€œShingaarâ€. But the credit for unearthing the singing stars and making playback singers out of Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum, Mohammad Rafi, Surinder Kaur and Lata Mangeshkar goes legitimately to Ghulam Haider only.
Indiaâ€™s independence in 1947 came with the painful partition of the country. The most disturbing communal rioting was witnessed by Ghulam Haiderâ€™s own province Punjab. Other worst hit areas included North West Frontier Province, Balochistan, the Presidency of Bengal and Delhi. Surprisingly the Presidency of Bombay, where Ghulam Haider lived experienced complete communal harmony. Some of the Hindu and Sikh instrument players, who left Bombay for Lahore in 1945, rejoined Ghulam Haiderâ€™s Orchestra in late 1947 and early 1948. Once again it was a happy family and Ghulam Haider got his soul back.
A very ominous incident happened on a local electric train in Bombay in 1947. Just like most Bombayites, Ghulam Haider was also traveling from one recording studio to another in a local train. The trains were not crowded during those days. Ghulam Haider noticed an anaemic looking small framed girl in her teens singing something. Her voice appeared very shrill and sweet. Ghulam Haider asked her to come close to his seat. He asked â€œWould you sing if I make a tune right nowâ€. He used a plate and a stick to create the â€œâ€Taalâ€ and improvised a tune. Ghulam Haider sang the song and the girl followed him. Ghulam Haider was impressed. He asked her to come on a certain date to a studio for audition in front of a mike and orchestra. The girl agreed and reached the studio well before the appointed time. Ghulam Haider conducted the audition. Her voice was feeble, but closer to the mike it sounded very impressive. She passed the audition. The girl was none other than todayâ€™s superstar Lata Mangeshkar, Ghulam Haiderâ€™s latest find.
Ghulam Haider at that time was composing the music for film â€œMajboorâ€. The song â€œDil Mera Torha, Ho Mujhe Kisika Na Chhorha, Tere Pyar Ne, Haye Tere Pyaar Neâ€ became Lata Mangeshkarâ€™s first ever solo. It was recorded in 1947, but the film was released in 1948. After that Ghulam Haider recorded Lata Mangeshkarâ€™s voice in film â€œAabshaarâ€ also in 1948. Her â€œAabshaarâ€ numbers became very popular and Lata became an established singer. About that very time Noorjehan left for Lahore and later on became â€œMalika-e-Tarannum of Pakistanâ€. Lata, however, kept copying the style of Noorjehan for a long time.
Ghulam Haider was so much excited about his new find Lata Mangeshkar that he boasted about it to the other contemporary biggies like Anil Biswas and Khem Chand Prakash. But it was Shyam Sunder, another Punjabi music director, who recorded Lataâ€™s earliest super hits in film â€œBazaarâ€ (1948). Shyam Sunder used Raga Pahari to compose Lataâ€™s first ever super hit song â€œSawan Ki Galiyan Chhod Chale, Dil Roya Ansoo Beh Na Sakeâ€. Lata herself admits that her one song â€œBaharen Phir Bhi Aayengi, Maghar Hum Tum Juda Hongeâ€ recorded for film â€œLahoreâ€ in 1949, in the music direction of Shyam Sunder is one of her lifeâ€™s finest songs. Lata takes pride in giving full credit to Ghulam Haider for making her a film playback singer. She says Ghulam Haider taught her as to which word deserved more stress and which one needed a soft touch for optimum impact. Lata regrets that she could not sing for another great Punjabi music director Khushid Anwar, who left for Lahore soon after composing music of â€œShingaarâ€.
One day in a recording studio Lata was rehearsing a Ghulam Haider tune. Being raw she was making one crucial mistake again and again. The perfectionist in Ghulam Haider got so much infuriated that he planted a slap on her face. Every member of the orchestra was stunned. One of Ghulam Haiderâ€™s most trusted harmonium players was Kartar Singh. Ghulam Haider used to make the tunes using a piano and Kartar Singh used to replicate those tunes on harmonium. Kartar Singh remarked â€Khan Sahib, why did you slap this frail little girl?, look at her face, she canâ€™t even cry, she is totally dumb foldedâ€. Ghulam Haider retorted back â€œLook Kartar Singh, I used to slap Noorjehan and see how high a pedestal she has reached, she is on top in her profession. This slap is going to catapult Lata Mangeshkar into a great singer, who will rule the World of musicâ€. Ghulam Haiderâ€™s prophecy proved right and today Lata Mangeshkar is Worldâ€™s most celebrated female playback singer and her name is encrypted in the â€œGuinness Book of World Recordsâ€ as the most recorded female voice in the World.
Between 1947 and 1949, Ghulam Haider composed music for films â€œMajboorâ€, â€œPadminiâ€, â€œBarsaat Ki Ek Raatâ€, â€œAabshaarâ€, â€œPatjharâ€, â€œShaheedâ€ and â€œKaneezâ€. Film â€œKaneezâ€ had songs sung by inimitable Zeenat Begum too and Ghulam Haider gave a chance to O.P. Nayyar to compose its background music.
Ghulam Haider left Bombay for good and arrived back in Lahore towards the end of 1949. Although staying in Bombay could have been professionally a lot more satisfying, but out of sheer patriotism for the newly created nation of Pakistan, he left a very promising career as a music director in Indiaâ€™s leading film production center. Others who returned to Lahore included music directors Firoze Nizami, Khurshid Anwar and Rashid Atre. But Ghulam Haider had the satisfaction of leaving Bombayâ€™s film landâ€™s music direction in the hands of a brilliant duo of fellow Punjabi music directors Pandit Husna lal Bhagat Ram, who had ten film contracts in 1949 and nine in 1950. Even the field of lyric writing was dominated by Punjabi poets including Rajinder Krishan, Naqsh Lyallpuri, Qamar Jalalabadi, Balraj Madhok and Sahir Ludhianvi to name a few. After the death of the doyen among male film singers K.L. Saigal in 1947, the crown of being the number one male playback singer was inherited by another Punjabi singer Mohammad Rafi. Prior to Rafiâ€™s meteoric rise another Punjabi G.M. Durrani was briefly on top, but he was seriously challenged by Mukesh of Delhi and Talat Mahmood of Lucknow.
On arrival in Lahore, Ghulam Haider in association with director S. Nazeer Ajmeri founded â€œFilmsazâ€, a music dominated company. While in Lahore, Ghulam Haider composed the music for films â€œBeqararâ€, â€œAkeliâ€, â€œBheegi Palkeinâ€, â€œGhulamâ€ and â€œGulnarâ€. Somehow the music of these films, with the exception of â€œGulnarâ€ did not do too well and the market in Pakistan was too small. The Noorjehan number for Film â€œGulnarâ€, with starting lyrics â€œLo Chal Diye Voh Hamko Tassalli Diye Baghair, Ik Chand Chhup Gaya Hai Ujala Kiye Baghairâ€ became a hit. This song was played again and again by different stations of Radio Pakistan as an â€œObituary on the death of Master Ghulam Haiderâ€.
Ghulam Haiderâ€™s life long inspiration was his beautiful, talented and intelligent wife Umro-O-Zia Begum. It is a pity that Ghulam Haider left this World for his heavenly abode in November 1953, a few months before his youngest child, another great classical, semi-classical and Sufiana singer Abida Praveen came into this World. As long as the music of the Indian Sub-continent is alive in this World, Ghulam Haiderâ€™s name will stay alive. Among other things that he did, he will be remembered for discovering a number of playback singing sensations including Umra-O-Zia Begum, Noorjehan, Shamshad Begum, Ali Bakhash Zahoor, Mohammad Rafi, Surinder Kaur and Lata Mangeshkar.
In his life time Ghulam Haider composed the music for about two dozen movies, a quarter of them being Punjabi films. Many others have composed music for a lot more movies. But it is not sheer numbers that matter in this World, it is the quality of work that matters the most. In terms of quality of music Ghulam Haider never made any shortcuts or compromises. That is why he went to the extent of slapping Noorjehan and Lata Mangeshkar when they were both debutant singers. For an example master composer Sajjad Hussain created music for only a dozen movies, but all his music became hit and top notch musicians like Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmood and Suraiya acclaimed his tunes as some of the finest ever made in the twentieth century.
Music directors, like other competing professionals, are generally quite jealous of each other. But contrary to that, on hearing about the demise of Master Ghulam Haider, one of his contemporaries and a highly acclaimed music director C. Ramchandra started crying. When asked about the reason C. Ramchandra said â€œGhulam Haider used to compose the tunes, I used to steal those and after making minor alterations and after changing the â€œTaalâ€, I used to create hit music under my own banner. Now that fountainhead of tunes has gone dry. I have been deprived of my source of ideas. I am the person who has been hit the hardestâ€. Such honest admissions from a fellow music director can be the finest tribute to the departed genius. This fact was narrated to me by another music director Sardul Singh Kwatra, who admitted that Ghulam Haider and Hans Raj Behl were his (Sardulâ€™s) sources of inspiration too.
[ The author Harjap Singh Aujla lives at 16 Junction Pond Lane, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey 08852 USA ]