Farida Khanum,who is in India for a concert,recalls her early days in the country and her wish to record for AR Rahman
A aj jaane ki zid na karo,yu hi pehlu mein baithe raho. When Farida Khanum sang this Fayazz Hashmi nazm in Pakistan in the early 1970s,ghazal lovers of India cocked their ears to their tape recorders as though it was a coded command from the legend herself,and played and replayed the tape until it whirred in agony. People in India and Pakistan enjoyed the song so much that the demand for the cassette soared on both sides of the border. That ghazal is simple poetry set to the simplest of tunes and it is that effortlessness that touches hearts, says Khanum,now 74,over a telephone conversation from Lahore. I am glad people still like it a lot. She will have Aaj jaane ki… as the showstopper at the ICCRs Routes2Roots concert in Delhi on Tuesday.
Khanum was born in Calcutta and learnt classical music from the maestro Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan. She still remembers the clip-clop of the tonga in which her sister Mukhtar Begum would take her,a seven-year-old Farida,to Khans place for riyaaz.
An exponent of the Patiala gharana,she recalls,All that I know today is because of my training in Amritsar. I learnt many Hindustani ragas in the style of the Patiala gharana,which is known for its graceful execution of thumris and khayals. I could have been a classical singer if I had not migrated. Khanum had her first public performance in 1950 and then joined Radio Pakistan where she courted fame and fortune.
I used to get 50 (Pakistani) rupees per show and that was quite a lot those days, laughs Khanum. In Pakistan,the classical singers were so good that I would not have been able to match those extremely talented ustads. I had always been interested in poetry and that is when I thought I should shift to a semi-classical genre,rather than struggle in a difficult field, she says with disarming modesty.
She became a star when Pakistans president Ayub Khan invited her to a public recital in the 60s. Bahut pyar mila uske baad humein. I performed a lot in India as well and it became a second home to me, says Khanum,who especially loves performing in Ghalib ka shehar Dilli.
Do the volatile relations between India and Pakistan affect her? How can we artists turn our faces when India bleeds and just because some forces are busy funding war? she asks. We still cant stop watching Shah Rukh Khan movies.
This time Khanum plans to meet music director AR Rahman. I had gone to Chennai the last time I came to India but couldnt meet him because of our busy schedules. Rahman wanted to record me then. I wish it is possible this time, says Khanum.