Hamare Paas Aao


First Time appears to be an Urdu film produced  in the late 60s-mid 70s.  I’ve not been able to find any reference to it except for a few selections from the soundtrack.

Wazir Afzal was responsible for that soundtrack which includes a range of styles from straight ahead Pakistani folk-based songs to more westernised pop-like sounds. Based upon some of the titles and lyrics, as well as the album cover, the film’s storyline most likely revolves around a young woman’s struggle to lead a decent and dignified life. But along the way she is compelled to  play roles and work in places she would rather not. No doubt a handsome sharif (respectable) man falls in love with her, then discards her through some misunderstanding but in the end, returns to her and they live happily ever after.

Afzal, a relatively minor musical figure in Pakistani films, was influenced by the folk music of Eastern Punjab and the doab, the rich agricultural plains lying between the Ganges and Jumna rivers in India’s Uttar Pradesh state.  He regarded Lucknow’s Naushad Ali, one of India’s very greatest musical composers, as his hero.

Once when Noor Jehan did a tour of India, Naushad was in the audience and fell in love with the music of one of Afzal’s songs–Ja Aj to Mein Teri, Too Mera (from Yar Mastaney). He approached Madam with a handwritten note of appreciation which he requested her to give to Afzal upon her return to Pakistan. Afzal cherished the letter for the rest of his life often referring to the incident in interviews.

Humare Paas Aao (Come close to me) is of the genre known as filmi qawwali. Qawwali  is the uniquely South Asian form of Islamic ecstatic music made popular in the West over the past 25  years by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Aziz Mian and the Sabri Brothers.  It is a musical form that is traditionally performed in and around the shrines of Sufi saints and its language (Punjabi, Urdu or Persian) is almost always spiritual/inspirational in nature.

In the 70s and 80s a secular form of qawwali known as sharabi, emerged. Championed by the likes of Aziz Miansharabi qawwali extolled a more hedonistic approach to life and ecstasy centered around drinking and inebriation.  Despite extolling drunkenness, audiences still considered this form of qawwali to be serious and full of artistic merit. Indeed, performers like Mian sang traditional qawwali as well, seeing no contradiction between spiritual and corporeal inebriation.

Filmi qawwali , on the other hand, has always been as a frivolous thing.  The songs are inserted into the film for much the same purpose as any other musical number: to entertain and sometimes, to advance the plot. The performers are made out in stereotypical ‘Muslim’ garb (skull caps, loose shalwar / kameez) and sport beards.  The ‘party’ is full of men who keep time by clapping, as in traditional qawwali. Many times there is a religious or semi-religious context within which they perform but it is not unusual for the occasion to be totally secular and disconnected from any religious practice or sentiment.

As in the case of Hamare Paas Aao a filmi qawwalis a melange of themes and moods.  The song opens in much the same way a traditional qawwali does with some playful harmonium runs and an elongated introductory note by the qawwal. The first part focuses on a very serious subject indeed, judgment day.  The singer, enacting the voice of God, calls people to ‘come close to me’ in order to save their lives. But there is an unavoidable humor in the proceedings as well. Vowels and phrases are exaggerated and tones are suddenly dropped low with faux gravitas.  All in all you can’t help but feel they are taking the piss.

The lyrics lay out the sins that are going to be judged:  mixing water with milk; mixing kerosene in cooking oil; putting stones in the daal (lentils).  In short, cheating the poor common man.

Suddenly the beat changes and we hear a dandy singing about what a hero he is and how the ladies swoon when he walks by.  His beloved enters the fray with ‘cold sighs’ and invites him to ‘come close to me’.

And so it goes, by turns spiritual and then romantic and then back to spiritual. A typical piece of cinematic musical fluff. Which is not to say it is not a worthy little song.

There is some tremendous harmonium playing and the hand claps keep the song moving along nicely. The voice is that of Munir Hussain, a popular (but not hugely so) playback singer of the 50s and 60s.  Related to several well-known personalities, including the music director, Wajahat Attre, and with some training in classical music,  Hussain was often commissioned for songs that required a classical or traditional (as opposed to pop, rock, disco) feel. His versatility is on display in this song as he adopts several distinct voices from the raw qawwal to the smooth ‘hero’.

Come Close


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