An Evening with Farida Khanum and Ali Sethi at LUMS

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistani singer and writer Ali Sethi hosted an evening with the veteran classical singer Madam Farida Khanum organized by the Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature at LUMS in Lahore on October 4, aimed at to bring arts and culture to the institute (Farida Khanum and Ali Sethi at LUMS).

The evening was attended by LUMS students, teachers, and staff members.

The Co-Director Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature Professor Bilal Tanweer made the opening remarks and highlighted the significance of great art.

This was followed by a screening of a black and white video of Ms. Khanum, which was taken from a 1974 TV programme by Zia Mohyeddin. The video shows him ushering in his guest, a young girl clad in a Sāṛī, with immaculate hair and makeup. She is timid and not too confident, and laughs at all of the hosts, Mr. Mohyeddin’s jokes. They have a conversation about ‘ghazal’ as an art form and how it has been depreciating in quality, followed by a performance by Ms. Khanum. She begins to sing in the video and her voice mesmerised the audience.An Evening with Farida Khanum and Ali Sethi at LUMS

An Evening with Farida Khanum and Ali Sethi at LUMS

As Madam Farida Khanum was brought on stage in a wheelchair by a few members of her family as well as her former student Ali Sethi, the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Ms. Khanum spoke about music and her passion and how music trends have changed over the years. “In this day and age, the music scene has changed. In our days, people would take out time and listen to ghazals with great joy, they had a passion for it. We learnt to value poetry and ghazals; we cared for it and still do.”

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“At times I would be driven by an urge to sing something before someone else could. The lyrics were so inspiring that I wanted to be the first to sing them!” she recalled. She explained how she began with Raag Darbārī because she already knew it, and that the sur of ghazal were soft, that they were easy to remember by heart. Mr. Sethi added that much of his learning has been from Ms. Khanum herself. “A listener said this to me once that when Farida Jī sings, time and space become blurred, it’s the closest you come to a spiritual experience,” shared Mr. Sethi.

Ms. Khanum was then asked to sing a few words. Also present on stage were Ustad Habib ur Rehman sahib on harmonium along with Khan sahib on tablā.  Both guests spoke about Faiz, and the ways in which these ghazals have not only moved many, but also at times provided a peak into history. The audience had the honour of experiencing live, Ms. Khanum’s famous hits, ‘Uzr Ānē meiñ bẖī, aur bulātay bhī nahī’, as well as the legendary ‘Muhabbat Karnē Wālay’. A few words of this song were also performed by Mr. Sethi, leaving the audience awestruck.

The evening was concluded with questions and comments by members of the audience, and finally, a few words by Mr. Tanweer himself, who rightly said, “Such a transformative experience will perhaps never come to us again, and for this we are grateful.”