We tere naal aenj rehna
Jiwen dhup naale chaan sajnan
Wakh tere to na rahan sajnan
Few composers reached the heights that Master Abdullah touched in his lifetime. An unequivocal giant of Pakistan’s film Industry, his musical prowess and innovative genius made him a legend during his lifetime and decades after his death.
He was born in Lahore, to a family where music was understood and appreciated. His gharana was known as the Mozang Gharana. Abdullah and his ilk were called Mozangiye.
Mozangiyes were a different lot altogether. Traditionally, South Asian musical gharanas carries a different connotation as they are classically trained in vocals or instrumental music like Patiala gharana, Delhi gharana and Sham Chaurasi, etc. But Mozangiyes comprised of a bunch of legendary families of musician and composers who dabbled in popular music like Tafo, Master Inayat, M. Ashraf and Master Abdullah, etc.
Most Mozangiyes were disciples of Ustad Barkat Ali Khan and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who saw them as the scions of the Kasur-Patiala gharana.
Therefore, Master Abdullah opened his eyes to a world of musical vocabulary. While his immediate family didn’t pursue music vocationally, Bahar Baksh, a Sarangi playing relative was the source of inspiration to him as a lad. Abdullah was a cousin to Master Inayat and closely related to M. Ashraf.
Master Abdullah started his career as an assistant to cousin Inayat Hussain, who was a brilliant composer of that time. The essence of Master Abdullah’s music was in its laya, speed or tempo, and he knew how to create astounding experiments in music with it. Combining a complex play of laya in his compositions lent the uniqueness and beauty to his music, which none of the great musicians of the time had to offer. Vastly creative, Abdullah used to search for compositions, which were never used by the composers of his time.
Although his romantic compositions and those denoting loss and sorrow were appreciated by the cinema audiences, he was much lauded for composing mujras, music for dancing-girls, for his films.
Master Abdullah debuted in 1962, when the virtuoso composed for Suraj Mukhi, an Urdu language film. 1965’s Malangi, a Punjabi film, set the stage for the remarkable composer, lending him the cinematic recognition that carried him through the next three decades.
Most of the 60-some films composed by the doyen were in Punjabi. Master Abdullah’s name became synonymous with a super-hit. This was the era of remarkable cine music. Khawaja Khurshid Anwer, Master Inayat Hussain and Rasheed Attre were mostly producing unforgettable music for the Urdu-language cinema. Master Abdullah, much like baba G. A. Chishti, only had access to Punjabi productions and set out to make his niche.
While the his play on laya made Master Abdullah’s music distinct, it offered a challenge to the vocalists of the time. Master Abdullah’s renditions were sung by many prominent artists of his time i.e. Mehdi Hassan, Masood Rana, Runa Laila, Mujeeb Alam, Batish, Aireen Parveen, Mala, Nazeer Begum, Mahnaz and Madam Noor Jahan.
Among female vocalists, Noor Jahan was a personal favourite with him. However, relationship between Noor Jahan and Master Abdullah grew increasingly strained when she couldn’t keep up with his rhythmically innovative and melodically challenging compositions. She would often complain how taxing his compositions had become and later simply refused to sing for his films. Despite the immense respect and love Abdullah had gained, the controversial episode with Madam Noor Jahan left a bad taste in the hearts of many music lovers. Some feats of Noor Jahan-Abdullah collaborations are akh pharadi he dil dharakda he and choora meri baan da.
Acha Shukar Wala, Master Abdullah’s last film was produced by his longtime friend and Lahore’s influential personality, Acha Shukar Wala. Abdullah said he would make music only if Noor Jahan would sing in the film. His friend asked him to start working on the music. Ach Shukar Wala called Noor Jahan and she was persuaded to come for the recordings of the songs. A hit number from the film, picturised on Sultan Rahi and Saima was Son rab di, rab ae ganwa pyaar wich deeni ae o de de saza and Tenoon be chein nigawaan salaam kehndian we.
Master Abdullah saw fame and fortune in his life. But life wasn’t terribly kind to him. He struggled to make his niche and even more to sustain his position as a composer. He faced a lot of resistance from opposing musical clans. A man of passion, Abdullah committed a murder of a rival in a fierce bid and did time for it. This happened during the making of his film Badla. He was the only composer to compose music during incarceration. However, a notable figure of Lahore, Acha Shukar Wala, came to his aid and made possible his release from his precarious situation.
Sadly it was the personal life of the maestro that broke his spirit. Master Abdullah family tragedies were too grave for him to bear. His beloved son died of heroine abuse at 25 years of age. Later his daughter’s suicide became the last straw for him. He suffered from chronic asthma and died a sad man at 62.
Master Abdullah made music for classic films like Malangi, 1965, Laado,1966, Badla,1968, Commander,1968, Rangu Jatt,1970, Ziddi,1973- Best Film Music Nigar Award, Shehanshah,1974, Sharif Badmash,1975, Jatt Mirza,1982 and, Qismet,1985. He left cine buffs with over 500 compositions. His songs are a timeless legacy and have resurfaced onto the music scene as remakes. His endeavours won him a Nigar Award.