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Zohra Bai Ambala Wali (1918-90)

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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.

 

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22 Comments

  1. 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. 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)

    • 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.

  3. 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

    • 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.

  4. 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).

    • 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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.

  7. 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

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

    Shekhar..

  9. 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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