Mehnaz and Kajjan Begum | Zaheer Alam Kidvai

Mehnaz and Kajjan Begum


With the death of Mehnaz at a young age (she was 55) we lost a lovely singer. She was travelling to the USA for medical attention and died on the way there. A large crowd attended her burial in Karachi. I remember seeing her when she was just 14 years old and accompanied her mother to a function at my friend’s place.

Mehnaz was the daughter of the famous Kajjan Begum, who was actually named Imam Baandi. Her mother was Husain Baandi. Both were well known in the UP. Kajjan Begum (and her mother) used to perform Noha and Soz recitals at Shia homes in Moharram and at Majlises held in many parts of UP. Apart from singing Noha and Soz, Kajjan Begum was also well-known for her singing of Ghazal, Thümri, Dadra, Chaiti and more. She also performed wonderful UP wedding songs at a number of places (including my own wedding, in Karachi). For those who may not know, Noha and Soz are poems about the Muslim Prophet’s grandson Hazrat Husain, the son of Hazrat Ali, who was murdered in Karbala.

Kajjan Begum by Zak

I thought it would be nice to put together some links to the songs of the two marvellous singers here, singing separately and together at some mahfils. Mehnaz, of course, went to do her singing in her own way – adding modern ways to address ghazals and other songs – but one could see the training she received from her mother. Kajjan said: Mehnaz gaati achchha haé, laykin sharmaati bohat haé. That was in her early days. Once she became popular, her sharmaahat was no longer what held her. Mehnaz loved singing. She performed at the All Pakistan Music Conference in Karachi, was a well-known film singer, and was on TV a lot of times.

Kajjan was loved by all who met her. Always full of mischief, she responded funnily to most questions, added tons of anecdotes to her conversations, and was ready to sing whenever asked. I asked Begum Akhtar (Faizabadi) what she thought Kajjan’s singing was like and she said: Kajjan say sirf ünn ki Amma achchha gaati haéñ!

Kajjan: Soz Ghabraaé Gi Zainab

Kajjan: Ghazal Har Jafaa Har Sitam Gavaara Haé

Kajjan: Thümri Chüriyaañ Karak Gaiyyaañ

Kajjan & Mehnaz: Wedding Song Kaahay Ko Beyaahi Bidays

Mehnaz: Ghazal Ab Kay Tajdeedé Mohabbat

Mehnaz: Punjabi Folk Maéñ Kamli Da Jhola

Mehnaz: Traditional Sakhiri Moray Naén

Kajjan & Mehnaz: Traditional Najariya Lag Jaé Gi

I first met Kajjan Begum (or Kajjan Bai, as she was then called) when she came to Pakistan and visited Syed Aalé Raza (a friend of my father) and then came to our house after getting our address from him. I wish there had been a tape recorder that far back, because she sang a small Thumri at my father’s request … and I fell in love with her voice.

Syed Aalé Raza – a wonderful poet – wrote a Salaamé Akhir that was recited each Moharram by Syed Nasir Jahan (and now by his son, Asad Jahan) at the end of the 10th Day observances on the TV. I thought I’d add Nasir Bhai’s version here, too, in case some of you may have missed it.

Syed Nasir Jehan: Salaamé Akhir

By the way, several CDs and DVDs of Pakistani Poets, Singers, Musicians, and more are available at this place in Karachi and people in India could ask friends coming here (or to any place in Pakistan) to take them back. There are loads of people that you may have missed out on and are worth listening to or seeing.

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

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  • Rana Safvi

    Have been a fan of Kajjan Begum and Mehnaz for many years. Every
    Moharrum I hear their soz , salam and marsiya. I often listen to Kajjan Begum recite, Laash e Akbar which I had grown up Hearing my Dadi recite on 8th Moharrum.
    I loved Mehnaz Begums shaadi ke geet by Khusrau.
    Thank you forthrse links

    • Zaheer Alam Kidvai

      The death of Mehnaz has taken the last of the Lakhnavi soz and noha reciters. There are quite a few, some very good, but Kajjan (and Husain Bandi) were voices we grew up with.