Nazir Ali, a very popular music composer in the 1960’s and 1970’s, employed a particular rhythmic pattern to his compositions. This pattern was greatly influenced by the rhythm of dhammal.
He can be categorized as the second generation of Pakistani film composers. The first were those who had already established themselves in the pre-independence era, or soon after, like Ghulam Haider, Khurshid Anwar, Feroze Nizami, G. A. Chishtie, Rashid Attre and Master Inayat Hussain.
The second generation was much more eclectic and open to influences from within the region as well as from all over the world. Compared to those formative sensibilities which were imbibing international music with liberal intermixing and cross fertilization, Nazir Ali was firmly grounded in the Punjabi ang. He was particularly apt at weaving the design of influences around local music — thus more involved with an internal eclectic synthesis.
Born in a family of professional musicians, Nazir Ali started his career by composing music for the film Paidageer in the late 1960’s, and progressed at a steady pace to establish himself as a popular composer in the film Dilaan de Saude. It was rhythmic pattern that became the reason of his popularity. At that time these rhythmic patterns were becoming popular and more acceptable and so were the choreographed sequences which drew their movements and steps from these beats. Inspired by the same rhythmic patterns, Nazir Ali was able to capitalise by composing songs on the variations of these rhythmic structures.
The popular number Lal meri pat rakhiyoo bhala jhole lalan attributed to Shah Baaz Qalander, has been sung for centuries as part of the folk tradition in Sindh. In the second half of the 20th century it was popularized by great folk singers like Fakir Abdul Ghafoor, and sung by the likes of Rubina Qureshi from Hyderabad Radio to other areas of Pakistan as well. It was used in the film by Nazir Ali and sung by Noor Jehan.
After Dilaan De Saude, he composed music for Sajnaa Door Diya, Ghairat Mera Naa, and Sultan. All these films were successful and the musical score was much appreciated. The combination of Noor Jehan and Nazir Ali proved to be quite productive and resulted in many good compositions rendered with feeling. Perhaps, the best result of the combination was Siyooni mera mahi mere bhaag jagawan aa giya, aijh lagda ai jeewe ranjahn menu heer banawan aa giya from the film Mastana Mahi. It became immensely popular, as was the film, and set a new trend of composition in Punjabi film music.
The strength of the Bombay film industry was that it attracted talent from all over India, especially North India, and became the melting pot of all these influences. These influences worked upon each other, the various strands provided a wider range for the singers. The large variety of composers from various regions opened up a wider scope of possibilities for film music to grow and prosper.
One of the consequences of partition was that the Punjabi music directors congregated in Lahore as it was the only major centre of film making in the newly established country. The richness of variety was lacking as the composers from one region collected at one place. This is not to say that the composers were not original or creative. But it cannot be denied that each composer and singer brings the flavor of his own region and background to his expression. In the narrowed field, these composers operated to create musical scores in Lahore for an audience that was also limited and not as varied as in undivided India.
Avoiding influences which were catholic and international, these composers went into a micro dissection of musical material. Though the base remained narrow, it was done with great thoroughness by not exercising the technique of wide brush strokes as in oil painting but of minute detail as in a miniature. The result was a variety that was more inward than outward — complicated, intricate and greatly worked out than it would have been otherwise.
Some of these famous compositions were: Ho ho sathoon kahnoon pheeryaan ne akhiaan we baboo aa, Wag de ne nain akhiaan choo ravi te chanaa we, Bhol jaan ai sab gham duniya de, Sajnan door diya, Muk jain e hanjoo nayooan mukdi udeek we, Piyaar jo hoya naal tere, Asaan te ai akhiyaa se sanoon ne bolaee we, Tera karam ki bari sarkaar hoya, Dildaar sadqe lakh waar sadqe and Rah wich behni aan tera ki leeni aan.
After the 1970’s, the trend changed significantly as the compositions were more influenced by the experiments that were taking place at the international level. The compositions and orchestration moved away from traditional melody. The composers who stressed on more indigenous forms were pushed to the background and gradually were lost in the shadow of oblivion. Nazir Ali too was pushed into that shadow and did very little work in the last two decades. His prime was in the 1970’s and the melodies he created have become part of our cultural heritage.