By Saeed Malik, "Qawwali loses a golden voice" - DAWN Images - Pakistan
July 20, 2003
Renowned qawwali singer Munshi Raziuddin died in Karachi on July 2, 2003. He was 84. Born in Delhi in 1919, Raziuddin was the grandson of Ustad Umroa Khan, the court musician of the largest princely state of the subcontinent, Hyderabad Deccan.
He learnt the rudiments of classical music first from his older brother Abdul Hameed Khan and later his paternal uncle Abdul Karim Khan. Finally, he became a pupil of his brother-in-law Ustad Sardar Khan Dehliwale, who was the grandson of Mian Qutab Bakhsh alias Taan Rus Khan, the court musician of Bahadhur Shah Zafar, last Mughal king of Muslim India.
After completing his training in classical vocalization, he joined Deccan Radio of Osmania State, which he served for several years with distinction. He also served as a member of the Board of Selection (of new artists) constituted by All India Radio. Other members of the Board were such distinguished luminaries of the music world as Pundit Ratanjanker, Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan and Ustad Wilayat Husain Khan. Dr. Balkrishna V. Keskar, the then information minister of India, tried to persuade him to stay on in the country but Raziuddin, who wanted to join his family members in Karachi, chose to take up permanent residence in Pakistan where he founded a qawwal party. It consisted mostly of the immediate members of his family and a few shagirds or students.
In a meeting about six months ago in Lahore, I inquired about the suffix of Munshi with his name. He disclosed that since he had succeeded in earning the degree of a Munshi Fazil (Honours in Urdu) at a relatively young age, he was considered a well read man in the family, most of whom wanted him to write the asthai-antaras of the raagas for them in his Urdu handwriting, which was considered beautiful.
"Thus I became the 'official' scribe for several members of my family who later started calling me Munshi," he said with a glint of pride in his eyes.
Besides being the leader of a frontline qawwal party of Pakistan, Munshi Raziuddin was an excellent classical vocalist and a competent teacher. Music was in his blood. It was the profession of his ancestors that went back several generations. One of his sons-in-law, Ustad Naseeruddin Saami and his sons are well-known classical singers of Pakistan who set up a music academy in Lahore recently.
It is said that a good qawwal has to be a good classical vocalist as well to remain in the creative forefront. The point has been well substantiated by several renowned qawwal parties before and after the division of British India. The late Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal was known for his command over the art of qawwali, as well as classical vocalization, a demonstration of which he made in a programme at the Lahore Arts Council a few months ago. He claimed to have in his repertoire hundreds of asthai-antaras (compositions) of different raagas.
His in-depth knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of music and qawwali earned the late Munshi another approbation. He was regarded as the walking encyclopaedia of music by a large number of professional musicians in both Pakistan and India.