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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Mehnaz and Kajjan Begum


With the death of Mehnaz at a young age (she was 55) we lost a lovely singer. She was travelling to the USA for medical attention and died on the way there. A large crowd attended her burial in Karachi. I remember seeing her when she was just 14 years old and accompanied her mother to a function at my friend’s place.


Mehnaz was the daughter of the famous Kajjan Begum, who was actually named Imam Baandi. Her mother was Husain Baandi. Both were well known in the UP. Kajjan Begum (and her mother) used to perform Noha and Soz recitals at Shia homes in Moharram and at Majlises held in many parts of UP. Apart from singing Noha and Soz, Kajjan Begum was also well-known for her singing of Ghazal, Thümri, Dadra, Chaiti and more. She also performed wonderful UP wedding songs at a number of places (including my own wedding, in Karachi). For those who may not know, Noha and Soz are poems about the Muslim Prophet’s grandson Hazrat Husain, the son of Hazrat Ali, who was murdered in Karbala.


I thought it would be nice to put together some links to the songs of the two marvellous singers here, singing separately and together at some mahfils. Mehnaz, of course, went to do her singing in her own way – adding modern styles to address ghazals and other songs – but one could see the training she received from her mother. Kajjan said: Mehnaz gaati achchha haé, laykin sharmaati bohat haé. That was in her early days. Once she became popular, her sharmaahat was no longer what held her. Mehnaz loved singing. She performed at the All Pakistan Music Conference in Karachi, was a well-known film singer, and was on TV a lot of times.

Kajjan was loved by all who met her. Always full of mischief, she responded funnily to most questions, added tons of anecdotes to her conversations, and was ready to sing whenever asked. I asked Begum Akhtar (Faizabadi) what she thought Kajjan’s singing was like and she said: Kajjan say sirf ünn ki Amma achchha gaati haéñ!

Kajjan: Soz Ghabraaé Gi Zainab
Kajjan: Thümri Chüriyaañ Karak Gaiyyaañ
Kajjan & Mehnaz: Wedding Song Kaahay Ko Beyaahi Bidays
Mehnaz: Ghazal Ab Kay Tajdeedé Mohabbat
Mehnaz: Punjabi Folk Maéñ Kamli Da Jhola
Mehnaz: Traditional Sakhiri Moray Naén
Kajjan & Mehnaz: Traditional Najariya Lag Jaé Gi

I first met Kajjan Begum (or Kajjan Bai, as she was then called) when she came to Pakistan and visited Syed Aalé Raza (a friend of my father) and then came to our house after getting our address from him. I wish there had been a tape recorder that far back, because she sang a small Thumri at my father’s request … and I fell in love with her voice.

Syed Aalé Raza – a wonderful poet – wrote a Salaamé Akhir that was recited each Moharram by Syed Nasir Jahan (and now by his son, Asad Jahan) at the end of the 10th Day observances on the TV. I thought I’d add Nasir Bhai’s version here, too, in case some of you may have missed it.

Syed Nasir Jehan: Salaamé Akhir

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By the way, several CDs and DVDs of Pakistani Poets, Singers, Musicians, and more are available at this place in Karachi and people in India could ask friends coming here (or to any place in Pakistan) to take them back. There are loads of people that you may have missed out on and are worth listening to or seeing.

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