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Iqbal Bano

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  • Years Active: 1990s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Singer Iqbal Bano revolutionized the Pakistani ghazal tradition, introducing a deeply personal and provocatively political dimension to music rooted in the allegorical and the devotional. Born in Delhi, India, in 1935, Bano studied classical music under Ustad Chand Khan, eventually undergoing the ganda bandan thread-tying ceremony that symbolically links teacher and pupil. She relocated to Pakistan in 1952 and married into a land-owning family, but returned to Delhi to record her first songs at All India Radio, later rising to national prominence thanks to soundtrack work on Urdu films including 1954's Gumnaam, 1955's Qatil, 1957's Ishq-e-Laila, and 1959's Nagin.While skilled in light classical forms including the thumri and dadra, Bano enjoyed her greatest acclaim as an interpreter of ghazal, an Arab poetic idiom notable for its steadfast resistance to strict lyrical interpretation -- in ghazal, what is written and sung is rarely as it seems, instead leaving much to the listener's powers of imagination. Bano's brilliance lies in her uncanny ability to forge tantalizing new possibilities and allegories from familiar couplets, posing the questions and complexities of the modern era within the context of classical tradition -- she also tackled contemporary material written by Pakistani poets including the controversial Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and in 1985 defied General Zia ul-Haq's ban on Faiz's work by performing his rousing Urdu anthem "Hum Dekhenge" in front of a Lahore crowd topping 50,000. The winner of a 1974 Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Pride of Performance) medal for her contributions to Pakistani music, Bano sang Persian ghazals with the same fluency as Urdu, and she enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the Iranian and Afghani communities. Bano died in Lahore on April 21, 2009.