How Noor Jehan Sang Her Way Into Your Heart

1 year ago / by Team SEEMA
Noor Jahan
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

As any biography of Noor Jehan will note, she was born in Kasur, Punjab, British India on September 21, 1926 to father Imdad Ali and mother Fateh Bibi and given the birth name Allah Rakhi Wasai. Her family were Punjabi Muslims, and she was one of 11 children.

She and her family moved to Calcutta in the early 1930s, and she began employment in a Diwan Sardari Lal theater. Her parents aimed to build film careers for her and her elder sisters Haider Bandi and Eiden Bai.

Throughout her life and career, she was known by many different names, including Baby Noor Jahan, Baby Noor Jehan and Baby Nurjehan; Noor Jahan, Noorjahan, Noorjehan and Nurjehan; and Madam Noor Jahan and Madam Noor Jehan.

Noor Jehan’s vocal debut–and first hit–came in 1935 when she and her sisters sang the Punjabi tune “Langh Aja Patan Chanaan Da O Yaar” on the soundtrack to the Punjabi film “Pind di Kuri.”

Over the six decades spanning 1935 and 1996, Noor Jehan garnered 135 film credits as playback singer in the music department, first in British India and then in Pakistan. Playback singers pre-record the vocals for songs the actors in a film then lip sync during filming; the playback singer never appears in the film.

During that time, she worked with composers like Damodar Sharma and revered music director Ghulam Haider. Haider went on to compose numerous songs for her and serve as an early mentor. She acted opposite stars like Pran and under the direction of famous directors like Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. She sang alongside beloved songstresses like Shanta Apte and sang duets with the likes of Masood Ran, Mehdi Hassan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mujeeb Aalam and Ahmed Rushdi.

Of these roles, Noor Jehan singer is perhaps best known for her vocal contributions to “Anmol Ghadi” (1946,) “Mela” (1948,) “Chanway” (1951) and “Chungking Express” (1994.) “Chanway,” also written “Chann Wey,” was her sole directing credit and made her the first female film director from Pakistan. It also became Pakistan’s highest-grossing film to date.

She was also the lead actress in that film, as well as “Dopatta” (1952,) “Paatey Khan” (1955,) “Chhu Mantar” (1958) and “Koel” (1959.) She served as lead vocalist in all those films as well. Her last film credit for singing before her death was in 1996 for “Sab Say Bara Rupiya.” She is credited on the soundtracks for 62 films.

She has 45 lead acting credits to her name as well, often appearing as Noorjahan. Her last film credit as lead actress prior to her death was in 1985 for “Wafadaar.” She is also credited as Costume Assistant for “Shalimar” (1978) and Composer for “Pajero Group” (1994.) Noor Jehan received special thanks in the credits for one film and two TV movies.

Over her career, Noor Jahan singer earned 15 Nigar Awards, which translates to “Picture Awards” and are presented annually by Nigar Magazine to acknowledge exceptional achievement in Pakistani film. They are the Pakistani equivalent of the Academy Awards in the U.S. She also received the Pak Army’s Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for her support during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. For her performance in the 1945 movie “Zeenat,” she received a gold medal from Z.A. Bukhari. She was the first female Asian recording artist ever to sing in Qawwali.

Noor Jehand died of heart failure in Karachi, Pakistan on December 23, 2000. This made the age of Noor Jehan at the time of her death, 74 years old. Her body now rests in Gizri Graveyard in Karachi‎, Pakistan. By the time of her death, she had recorded more than 10,000 songs.

Little-known fun facts about Noor Jehand include that she was ranked number eight on a respected list of Most Influential Pakistanis and number 16 on a list published in the Eastern Eye newspaper of the twenty all-time best Bollywood singers. In August 2014, she was named the Greatest Female Singer of Pakistan, and, in August 2017, she was ranked the top Female Pakistani singer. In September 2017, she was honored as the Cultural Ambassador of Pakistan, and Google Doodle honored her 91st birthday. She also holds the admiration and adoration of American Queen of Pop Madonna.


What is Noor Jahan known for?

Noor Jehan is best known and widely revered as Malika-e-Tarannum, or the Queen of Melody. Pakistani television also dubbed her the Voice of the Century. She holds the record for singing the most number of songs in Pakistani cinema history, with about 20,000 songs to her credit.

When did Noor Jahan start her singing career?

Noor Jahan got her early vocal training at Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan in classical singing. During that time, she began exploring singing in a range of other genres as well as classical, including popular theater and traditional folk. At nine years old, Ghulam Ahmed Chishti, a Punjabi musician, composed various folk songs, naats and ghazals for her to sing on stage. After she completed her schooling, Noor Jehan began performing in Lahore with her elder sisters, often giving live performances in movie houses before a film was screened.

Who is Noor Jahan’s spouse?

Noor Jehan is a two-time divorcée, first from Shaukat Hussain Rizvi (married 1942 – 1953) and, then, from Ejaz Durrani (married 1959 – 1970.) Her second husband was also a film actor and nine years her junior. She has six children, three from her first marriage. They are sons Akbar Hussain Rizvi and Asghar Hussain Rizvi, and daughters Zil-e-Huma, Nazia Ejaz Khan, Hina Durrani and Mina Hasan.

What is Noor Jehan’s net worth?

Noor Jehan is worth approximately $40 million USD.