Zohra Bai Ambala Wali (1918-90)

Posted November 8, 2009 2:41 pm by Playback Singers

Zohra Bai Ambala Wali

A noted classical singer, Zohra bai Ambale wali belonged to the first generation playback singers of Hindi cinema. Born into an orthodox Muslim family, Zohrabai’s introduction to music was through the gramophone records playing in her home in Ambala (now in the Punjab).

Recognizing her musical talent, Zohrabai’s grandfather put her under the tutelage of Ghulam Hussain Khan and Ustad Nasir Hussain Khan. The latter trained her in the Agra gharana (school) of Hindustani music, and it was this robust, unrestrained style of singing that Zohrabai brought to film music.

She began her career as a radio artiste, singing mainly classical and semi-classical numbers. She also cut albums with HMV, the leading gramophone company of the time. Music Director Pransukh Nayak gave Zohrabai her first film song in  Daku Ki Ladki (1933). She subsequently sang for music director Naushad Ali in Rattan, delivering such hits as Aai Diwali aai Diwali and Akhiyan mila ke, jiya bharma ke. In fact, most of the singer’s famous songs, including those in Anmol Ghadi, Mela, and Jadoo, were to come under the music direction of Naushad Ali.

Zohrabai retired in the late 1950s to help her daughter, the noted kathak dancer Roshan Kumari.

 

  1. 7 years ago  

    om

    sir I wish to know the lyrics of a song sung by Zohra bai in a film {1945}the words of which are as:
    NAINO ME KRISHNA MURARI HAIN, MANKE BIHARI HAIN.

  2. 7 years ago  

    shafqat javed choudhry

    The best part above is a two line note of Mr.Jinx.I want to be his Shagird.Wah bai Wah.

  3. 7 years ago  

    Vidur Sury

    The earliest song listings of Zohrabai Ji available are from Jawani Diwani (1934) with Rafique Ghaznavi as music director. She may have also acted in some 30s films as then there was no playback (esp. pre-35)

    • 7 years ago  

      admin

      Yeah, that is what I thought too. I don’t think that her first song was for Shakuntala (1943).Thanks for providing more info on her.

  4. 7 years ago  

    radjesh

    Hi Mr Jinx. How are you? Hope everything is allrght. I am sorry to say but this Bollywood Zohrabai was not a classical singer. There was another singer with the same name and she was a classical singer. She had never sung in a movie. This Zohrabai or Zohrajaan was not a classical singer
    Radjesh

    • 7 years ago  

      admin

      Hello Rajdesh!

      Nice to see you back! I think you are right, Zohra Bai was not a classical singer. I think they confused her with Zohra Bai AgreWali who was a noted classical singer. I will update the article later. “Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema: An Enchanting Close-Up of India’s Hindi Cinema (Britannica)” has quite a few errors and omissions.

  5. 7 years ago  

    Vidur Sury

    Zohrabai was definitely trained in classical music but Zohrabai Agrewali was completely different, of course. Amabalewali’s early songs were during Agrewali’s demise (1939).

    • 7 years ago  

      admin

      What Rajdesh meant was that Zohra Bai was not a classical singer. Ofcourse, she was classically trained like Lata Mangeshkar and Noor Jehan. And like Lata Mangeshkar and Noor Jehan, her main forte was film music.

  6. 7 years ago  

    Badri lal

    I am singing on radio cylone between 1998 to 2004 in which some most beautiful songs I heard . MAR KATARI MAR JANA,I still waiting to be heard.

    • 6 years ago  

      admin

      Mar katari was sung by Amirbai Karnataki and not by Zohra Bai Ambala Wali.

  7. 6 years ago  

    Vidur Sury

    It is confirmed that her first film songs were in Gramophone Singer (1938), music by Anil Biswas Ji. She possibly sang for actress Prabha Ji.

    • 6 years ago  

      Vidur Sury

      Sorry, I just confirmed with the support of Geet Kosh that her first song was from Daku Ki Ladki (1933). She must have acted since there was no playback till 2 years later. She sang 2 songs including a solo (her debut song) and a duet with Aslam. What an old timer! Her voice is truly so unique and immortal. Her last song was “Mere Dard-E-Jigar Ki Har Dhadkan”, a trio with Chandbala Ji and Asha Bhonsle Ji, from Nausherwan-E-Adil (1957), music by C. Ramchandra Ji.

  8. 6 years ago  

    admin

    Thanks for recommending those songs! I love “Suno ji pyari koyalya bole” from Sanyasi (1945). I also have a cassette of rare songs of Zohra and from that selection I like “Ankhoun mein aa”, “Kis tarah bhole ga dil” and few others.

    • 6 years ago  

      Vidur Sury

      Aankhon Mein Aa is by another such unique and robust voice, Amirbai Ji. Sometimes (reason is not known) wrongly credited to Zohrabai Ji. Even in Geet Kosh, you can get the right answer. Both of these stalwarts were two of the most prominent singers in the 1940s, apart from quality, even by quantity.

      • 6 years ago  

        admin

        My bad! Yes Aankhon mein Aa is indeed by Amirbai Karnataki! Thanks for the correction!

        • 6 years ago  

          Vidur Sury

          Oh, it’s OK. This happens. Even, for instance, in Geet Kosh, some Rajkumari Ji songs are credited to Zohrabai Ji from Kavita (1944), etc.

  9. 5 years ago  

    Charanjit

    No one has mentioned
    Aahen na bhari, shikawe na kiye ,
    Kuch bhi na Zabaan se Kaam liya
    Film is Zeenat

  10. 4 years ago  

    Muhammad Saeed

    can anyone let me know movie name for a song I listened long before on radio ceylon…..
    MERA NANHA SA DIL DILBER KHONA NA
    it is sung by a female singer.
    ……………………………
    and can anyone upload a song from the movie TEERANDAAZ, Hussan ko teer chalana hey Khuda khair karey

    my email id is mohd.saeed@imrooz.com

    saeed

    • 4 years ago  

      Sami

      The song “Mera Nanha sa dil” is sung by Surinder Kaur for the film Rajrani of 1950.

  11. 3 years ago  

    shekhar

    Would any one let me know there were two ZOHRABAI …WHO WAS THAT ?? Amazing she sang during those particular years…

    Shekhar..

  12. 2 years ago  

    Raees Fatimah (columist / fiction writer

    ZOHRA BAI AMBALA WALI HAD THE FINEST QUALITY OF CLASSICAL INDIAN VOICE THIS SUB CONTINENT HAS EVER PRODUCED SHE WAS UNFORGETTABLE PLAY BACK SINGER WHOM THE CLASSICAL SINGING LOVERS WILL NEVER FORGET SHE WAS INDEED A SINGING ICON AND A LEGEND IN HER OWN CAPACITY. PROF.RAEES FATIMA COLUMIST DAILY EXPRESS PAKISTAN .I HAVE WRITTEN 14 BOOKS ON DIFFERENT TOPICS

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