An exciting update to the story of Jagannath Azad’s tarana for Pakistan is that the talented young Shahvaar Ali Khan in Lahore has composed and sung it. Shahvaar released the song, that he has titled ‘Azad ki dua‘, on Aug 14 on Youtube. It is also exciting that Radio Pakistan agreed to broadcast it, every three hours on its nine FM 101 channels. Here’s a link to my essay, Pakistan’s ‘lost’ anthem, published in Fountain Ink a few days ago; it begins:
Like most Pakistani children I grew up singing the country’s national anthem every morning at the school assembly. Our rotund music teacher Mrs Lobo would pound the tune out on the school piano as rows of uniformed boys and girls obediently mouthed the words, “Pak sar zameen shaad baad…”, Blessed be the sacred land. Some jokers would strike a discordant note to make their classmates laugh. I doubt any of us ever thought about the meaning of the heavily Persianised words.
We all knew that the lyrics of this anthem were written by the late poet Hafiz Jallandari several years after the country was born. Until then, there was no anthem. Or so we thought.
It wasn’t until fairly recently that I discovered, from a most unexpected source, that there was an earlier anthem—sanctioned by the country’s founder, broadcast by Radio Pakistan when the country gained independence, but not adopted “officially”. (read more at this link)
Here’s Shahvaar’s composition with the beautiful video he put together at record speed:
Below, my story of how this came about, in Aman ki Asha (Aug 15, 2012):
India-Pakistan peace: ‘Azad ki dua’
A young musician revives Jagannath Azad’s 65-year old national song for Pakistan
Ae sarzameene pak
Zarray teray haen aaj sitaaron se taabnaak
Roshan hai kehkashaan se kaheen aaj teri khaak
Ae sarzameene pak
(O pure land / The stars illuminate each particle of yours / Your very dust is today brighter than a rainbow / O pure land)
Sixty-five years after it was written, young Lahori musician and peacenik Shahvaar Ali Khan has composed and sung the poem penned by another Lahori, the poet Jagannath Azad on the eve of Pakistan’s independence in August 1947.
Khan’s melodic tune and mellifluous voice, coupled with Azad’s simple lyrics, make ‘Azad ki dua’ (as Khan has titled it), a hummable tune that will be a moving addition to Pakistan’s repertoire of national songs. The composer has treated the poem musically as “a contemporary soft tune, an emotional love/prayer song for Pakistan from Azad” as he puts it, with a chorus adding to its depth.
Shahvaar Ali Khan is known on both sides of the border for his songs starting with his first single “No Saazish No Jang” (Geo TV and Aag), followed by ‘Filmein Shilmein‘ in Akshay Kumar and John Abraham’s ‘Desi Boyz’. His third single was a tribute to the great Mehdi Hassan, ‘Jab Koi Pyaar Se Bulayga’.
We had been interacting since he was a student at Trinity College in Connecticut, majoring in Economics and International Studies. He contacted me with reference of his adviser, the well-known progressive historian Vijay Prashad. When I became intrigued with Azad’s Pakistan tarana a few years ago, Shahvaar was keenly interested in my research. A few days ago, when I suggested he compose and sing the poem in time for Independence Day, his enthusiasm for the idea was reflected in the speed with which he moved, completing the musical score in just a day. He has also done complete melodic justice to the stature of Azad’s lyrics and love for Pakistan.
Born in Isakhel, Mianwali, in 1918 Jagannath Azad was the son of the poet Tilok Chand Mehroom who was also an acclaimed naat khwan. Azad also became a well-known Urdu poet. An acknowledged scholar of ‘Iqbaliat’ (poetry and prose of Allama Mohammad Iqbal), he left Pakistan with great reluctance some months after partition. He returned for several mushairas, happy to be back, warmly received, but pained to be coming ‘home’ as a ‘guest’.
Azad always maintained that he wrote “Ae Sarzameen-e-Pak” at the behest of Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah, and mentioned its broadcast on Radio Pakistan on Aug 14, 1947 in several places. There are some alive who recall hearing the broadcast.
However, there is no record available of the Quaid-e-Azam’s request to Azad, or of the radio broadcast – not surprising given the ad hoc nature of decision-making and the lack of recording facilities at the time. Azad’s ‘tarana’ was never ‘officially’ adopted as Pakistan’s national anthem. It was discontinued soon after the demise of the Quaid-e-Azam. A National Anthem Committee was formed in December 1948 but it was not until 1954 that Hafeez Jalandri’s lyrics were formally adopted as Pakistan’s official national anthem.
A passionate proponent of good relations and peace between India and Pakistan, Azad’s last wish, as he told Kashmiri journalist Luv Puri in an interview shortly before passing away in 2004, was to pen a “song of peace” that would be common to both countries and sung by millions of Indians and Pakistanis.
“It is my wish that one day the people of the two countries will sing the songs of love instead of hatred,” he told Puri.
Setting aside the controversy of whether or not Azad’s poem was Pakistan’s first national anthem, the stirring Urdu poem and its modern composition have the potential to become another national song for Pakistan, like ‘Sohni Dharti’ or ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’. It is certainly something that Pakistanis should know about.
As Azad said at an Indo-Pak mushaira honouring Qateel Shifai in Dubai, 1992:
Siyasat ney jo khenchi hain hadein qayam rahein beshak,
Dilon ki hadd-e-faasil ko mitaa dene ka waqt ayaa
(Let the lines drawn by politics remain intact
It is time to erase the distance between hearts)
– Beena Sarwar