Ghulam Haider : The Inventor of Indian Fusion Music

Ghulam Haider

Ghulam Haider

Ghulam Haider was the first music director in the country who modernised Indian music through the fusion of classical and contemporary Punjabi music. Music of his kind was new to the world of cinema during that era. The trend he started is followed by every composer today. However, he is seldom given credit for his musical innovation.

Ghulam Haider was born in 1908 in the Sind division of Hyderabad in British India. Academically and professionally, He was a dentist. He also learnt music from Master Babu Ganesh Lal, which later helped him to attain success as a versatile musician.

After 5 years of practice in dentistry, Ghulam Haider left his medical profession and migrated to Calcutta (presently Kolkata). In Kolkata, he took up work as a harmonium player at the Alfred Theatrical Company. He also worked for Calcutta’s Alexander Theatrical Company and as a composer in Jenaphone Recording Company as well.

In 1932, he joined the Play Art Photophone Company and got his first break as a composer in films . In 1934, he composed music for ‘Thief of Iraq’ followed by A. R. Kardar’s movie ‘Swarg Ki Seerhi’ in 1935. Unfortunately, the movies were commercial disaster. They were forgotten soon after their release and so did Ghulam Haider’s music.

Success Stories:

In 1939, he got his first major break in Punjabi movies through D. M. Pancholi’s ‘Gul-E-Bakavali’ followed by ‘Yamla Jat’ in 1940. Both the films starred Noor Jehan and also ‘Gul-E-Bakavali’ was a major breakthrough in her career as a singer. The songs ‘Shaala Jawaaniyan Maane’, ‘Pinjra De Vich Qaid’ became super hit songs that were sung by Noor Jehan and composed by Ghulam Haider. The movies were also commercially successful. This partnership of Pancholi and Haider continued for the next 5 successful years.

Ghulam Haider’s real success came in the year of 1941 with the release of D. M. Pancholi’s ‘Khazanchi’. The movie marked the beginning of a new form of music in the Indian film industry.

For the first time in history, Ghulam Haider composed music by mixing classical and modern Punjabi music together. The response to the new trend was tremendous. The film and its music were widely accepted and became popular throughout. This trend of fusion is still continuing in Bollywood even after seven decades of its inception. ‘Saawan Ke Nazaarey’ from ‘Khazanchi’ became a very popular song during the era.

After ‘Khazanchi’, he gave out back to back musical hits under D. M. Pancholi’s production banner. ‘Chaudhary’ in 1941, ‘Zamindar’ in 1942, ‘Khandan’ in 1942, ‘Poonji’ in 1943, were all successful ventures by the duo.

Ghulam Haider soon shifted to Bombay (presently Mumbai) and composed songs for movies like ‘Chal Chal Re Nau Jawaan’ in 1944, ‘Phool’ in 1944, ‘Humayun’ in 1945, and ‘Bairam Khan’ in 1946.

In 1946, Sohrab Modi’s ‘Shama’ released. Music for ‘Shama’ was composed by Ghulam Haider. The music of ‘Shama’ is known for the marvellous use of ‘Tabla’ among the instruments. ‘Ek Tera Sahara’ and ‘Gori Chali Piya Ke Des’ are some of the notable tracks from ‘Shama’.

By the year of 1948, Ghulam Haider was working with all the big banners of the industry. He composed for ‘Majboor’ under Bombay Talkies, ‘Barsat Ki Ek Raat’ under Diwan Pictures, ‘Shaheed’ under Filmistan Studios and ‘Patjhad’ under Pancholi Productions.

Ghulam Haider

Ghulam Haider

‘Watan Ke Raah Mein Watan Ke Nau Jawan Shaheed Ho’ by Mohd. Rafi from ‘Shaheed’ is one of the most popular track by Ghulam Haider. ‘Dil Mera Toda’ and ‘Ab Jeeke Kya Kare’ from ‘Majboor’, ‘Ho Chand Chamka Andhere Mein Aaj Hai’ from ‘Humayun’ are some of the most popular tracks from the contemporary period.

The Forgotten Discoveries:
Ghulam Haider during his short tenure as a music director has given and contributed a lot to the music industry. His most noted contribution would be Lata Mangeshkar. Ghulam Haider was the sole composer who predicted the grand future of Lata Mangeshkar.

He introduced Lataji to Sashadhar Mukherjee, who rejected her voice and claimed her voice to be ‘too thin’ for the industry. A furious Ghulam Haider still went ahead with Lataji and gave her the first ever big break of her career in Bombay Talkies’ ‘Majboor’. The song ‘Dil Tera Toda’ from ‘Majboor’ became a huge hit.

Ghulam Haider even went to the extent of inviting other notable music directors of the industry like Naushad Ali, Khemchand Prakash and Anil Biswas to witness the first recording of Lata Mangeshkar’s song. It was Ghulam Haider’s faith that gave the nation ‘The Nightingale of India’.

Ghulam Haider can also be credited in a way for giving break to Noor Jehan. The Punjabi Film ‘Gul-E-Bakavali’ was a major break for Noor Jehan as a singer. She later rendered many super hit songs for him like ‘Tu Kaunsi Badli Mein’, ‘Mere Liye Jahaan Mein’ from ‘Khandan’, ‘Lo Chal Diye Woh Humko Tasalli Diye Bagair’ from ‘Gulnar’ and ‘Bas Bas We Dholna’ from ‘Yamla Jatt’.

His association with Shamshad Beghum is also noteworthy. To a certain extent, Ghulam Haidar can also be credited for Shamshad Beghum’s success. ‘Sawaan Ke Nazarey Hain’ from ‘Khazanchi’ is one of the most popular tracks by Shamshad Beghum composed by Ghulam Haider.

Ghulam Haider would also take away the crown for introducing fusion music which is widely practiced in today’s music industry. The trend was initiated by him and it remains to be the most popular form of music even today.

Ghulam Haider was also known for extensive use of percussion instruments in his music. ‘Tabla’, ‘Dhol’ were used in large scale throughout his compositions. The movie ‘Shama’ witnessed the brilliant use of ‘Tabla’ in its music for the first time.

Soon, India went through the miseries of partition and Ghulam Haider decided to return back to Pakistan. He started composing music for movies in Pakistan after shifting there. His first Pakistani movie was ‘Shahida’ in 1949.

In the 1950s, he also composed for movies like ‘Beqarar’, ‘Akeli’ ‘Bheegi Palkein’ but none of them were successful. His last movie as a music director was ‘Gulnar’. Noor Jehan also play-backed for ‘Gulnar’ but his sudden demise came even before the release of the movie.

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