Thursday, January 22, 2015




Habib Painter( 1915-1987 ) was a painter  ,  poet and a well known Qawaali singer of India .  Widely loved and admired  for  his style,  he could sing  Qawaali and  Sri Krishna Leela with equal perfection. 

   He became a favourite of Pandit  Jawahar Lal Nehru and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad .  Admired by doyens of Indian cinema like  Dilip Kumar ,Manoj Kumar , Raj Kapoor, late Nargis Dutt and actress Mumtaz ,  he was equally loved by writers and artists  that included  Khushwant Singh, Ram Kumar , and M F Hussain.

 Habib Painter’s  compositions  presented a  flavor of   Humanism and his compositions centered around the core values and percepts of Sufi ideology.  If he did not sing Kabir Vani directly  ,he would intersperse his compositions with   dohaas of kabir .

Habib’s singing  represented  a culture of the subcontinent that had evolved itself for ages at the shrines  and  Dargaahs of saints  and Sufis visited by Hindus and Muslims .He was equally at ease singing about the Kaaba and the Shivala or  about Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Sri  Krishna. A vintage classic of his is the qawwali “Bahaut Kathin hai dagar Panghat ki”.
   Habib was a widely traveled man and a frequent visitor to Kashmir.  And  just before his death ,  actress Mumtaz   singlehandedly  sponsored his  troupe’s tour to East Africa where his style and  genre   received rave reviews in newspapers   .

Credit goes to late Rais Mirza and his wife Taramani (  Head of Khadi Gram Udhoyg Bhawan ) for bringing a poor billboard  painter cum nondescript   singer  from Aligarh to elite cultural circle of the country and introducing  him as a Qawaal . 

 Habib Painter had an attractive nasal  twang in his voice.He  could also play many instruments notably harmonium. 

Bakshi Ghulam  Mohammad  remained an ardent admirer  of Habib Painter  till his last day  . I quote some Qawaalis sung by  Habib  Painter that became quite popular in Kashmir:-

(1) Karray Koyee Bharray Koyee 
(2) Bahut Kathin hai Dagar Panghat ki
(3) Yahaan se chala Gayaa Kotwal
(4)  Bhagwaan Issi Mein Miltein hain
(5) Nas Nas Bolay Nabi Nabi
(6) Hum Kaise Guzaara Kartein hain
(7) Baap Ki Naseehat Beti ko 
(8) Bhalaa kis ko Maanoon Buraa Kis ko Maanoon
(9)  Tumhay Koochaa e  ishq ke Dastoor Nahin Maaloom
(10)  Magar Mein  keh Nahin kehtaa
(11)  Dekh Tamaasha Lakarri ka 
(12) Kaahe ko byaahi Bides 

  In 1962, Habib Painter  visited  border areas  and sang to cheer up Indian army during Chinese invasion. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru  would call him ' Bul Bul e Hind'  . He would be occasionally invited to Teen Murti House  to sing for select guests  with Pandit ji staying till the last song / Qawaali .

His  style and  compositions   became  popular in the entire subcontinent  during his life time.  He sang for about  50 years, and  his  accompanists  remained loyal to him. None moved away from him though most of them received invitation  from cinema world. His longtime trusted companion and co singer  Rafiq Ali  was also a  great singer and musician  . Habib Painter loved Banarasi Paans.

Whenever he was in Delhi ,He would invariably visit Dargah of Hazrat Nizam Ud Din Aulia .He called  himself to be a disciple of Hazrat Nizam Ud Din and Amir Khusro.
In Kashmir,   many elders have fond memories of the person and his qawaali Mehfils .

Habib Painter breathed his last  on Feb 22, 1987 , and lies  buried  at his birth place,  Aligarh. His son,  Anees painter  is also a well known Qawaal who carried forward his father's art and legacy.Anees too has a nasal twang  like his father. I enjoy Anees  singing 'Hum Kaise guzara karte Hain ' .  

I end this mini post with   a Dohaa of kabir ….

Kabiraa Jantra na baajiye toot gaye sab taar
Jantra bichaara kyaa karay chalaa bajaavan haar

( O kabbir ! should  the stings be  cut, 
How can this instrument resonate with music ?
What music can  the poor instrument play , 
should the player move away from it ?)

( Avtar Mota  )


Prof.Jaya Parimu from Srinagar  informs  me  :-

“ Habib painter will be a page on history of Qawaali genre of music. He was gifted with a voice having perfect tonal quality which matched with the Qawwali style of singing.His modulated lilt with a clear vocal quality would enchant the audience of Qawaali listeners. Peace to these legendary musicians who soulfully entertained listeners for decades. “

Sh. Anwar Aftab Bakshi from Srinagar informs:-

“ The beauty of Habib Sahib was that he would attend a lot of competitions of Qawaalis , which was the norm of that era. He was one of the fastest verbal composer for replying his opponent while singing a Qawaali during a competition. He used to be my father Late Bakshi Abdul Majid Sahib’s (Peace be upon him) favourite too. As a child I remember playing with his harmonium and then he would carry me in his lap around the area where his programme would be. I would wonder why his mouth would always be red, till I later on realized he was very fond of betel or Paan .”

Prof Nighat Hafiz adds :-

“Habib painter had a unique style... Sharp sweet voice that could easily pierce a heart to make its way... I liked him for his clarity of word and expression... His words were never difficult to grasp or understand.”

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