It was immaterial for music lovers in Pakistan that where Shahnaz Begum lived as she was and will remain their ‘Sohni Dharti’ girl. Written by his friend Masroor Anwar, Sohail Rana gave this exceptionally simple yet full of indigenous emotions tune to Shahnaz Begum to sing and she sang it divinely. In the same lilting manner she immortalised ‘Jeeve Jeeve Pakistan’ a very modern yet traditional tune also composed by Sohail Rana and written by Jamiluddin Aali. She also sang to perfection another song of this genre ‘Mauj barhe yaa aandhi aaye diya jalae rakhna hai’ that brings to fore the attraction of her voice and singing range.
Shahnaz Begum with her vulnerable voice was a composer’s dream. During her monumentally influential years as a singer, Shahnaz Begum tremendously impressed the new generation through her superfluous songs. She was a rage on TV screens and with her simple beauty enchanted wide audiences. Shahnaz was part of the versatile Bengali musical artists who left indelible mark on the film and TV music in Pakistan. They were very creditable names: Runa Laila, Bashir Ahmad, Robin Ghosh and Shahnaz who was particularly outstanding amongst them.
She sang in films before 1971 and also sang beautiful ghazals and one of them will suffice to gauge the depth of her singing talent:’ Kahan ho tum chale aao mohabbat ka taqaza hai’. The sensitivity of her voice is richly manifested in this ghazal. She also sang a priceless number ‘Aas bandhi ghar aaye badra’ that is a very sweet composition.
Like most Bengali performers she shifted to Dhaka and kept on singing. Her talent was widely regarded in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. She visited Pakistan as an honoured guest in 1997 to celebrate the 50 years of Radio Pakistan in Islamabad and was warmly received. In 1992 Bangladesh awarded her Ekushey Padak, the second highest civilian award in Bangladesh. In 2006, Shahnaz’s four songs were ranked on BBC’s list of top 20 greatest Bengali songs of all time.
Her career spanned over five decades and she collected accolades for her performances. She retired from professional singing about seven years ago and fell victim to heart attack at the age of 67. Tributes from Pakistan and Bangladesh poured in on social media remembering her as a “gifted singer” and the “voice of the nation”. TW
Nida Faraz is very active in social circles