One of legends of the golden era of Pakistani film music Wazir Afzal passed away in Lahore on Tuesday after a protracted illness. He was 87.
According to Afzal’s close circles, he had multiple medical complexities and was admitted to the Shaikh Zayed Hospital a week before.
The funeral prayers for the deceased were held at Masjid Khurasaan, Iqbal Town and he was laid to rest at an Allama Iqbal Town graveyard. The funeral was attended by musicians Akbar Abbas, Qadir Shaggan, Khawar Abbas, Moin Butt, Baila Nasir and many others.
Wazir Afzal was born in Patiala in 1934. His family originally belonged to Amritsar but it had moved to Patiala. His brother had a sports shop where musical instruments were also sold. The young Wazir started playing Sarod, which was available at the shop. After the Partition of India, Wazir Afzal came to Lahore and then went to Karachi to join the Radio Pakistan as an instrumentalist. He left the job after a year and came back to Lahore where he started playing Sarod at Standard Hotel on The Mall, owned by the father of Khawaja Khurshid Anwar. One day music composer Master Ghulam Haider saw him playing Sarod and asked him to start playing mandolin, instead of Sarod. Wazir started playing mandolin. This led to his journey in film music where he used to give background music, mostly, at the start, at Pancholi Studio in Muslim Town. He learnt composing film music from Khawaja Khurshid Anwar and worked as his assistant.
Wazir and Afzal were, in fact, two friends who used to compose music together. They were Wazir Ali and Muhammad Afzal and got famous as Wazir Afzal. Before started their music career, Afzal used to play violin while Wazir used to play mandolin. They continued working together until 1968. However, despite their split, Wazir continued composing music as Wazir Afzal and kept getting fame. He kept using the name and was identified as Wazir Afzal for the decades to come.
Wazir Afzal composed 209 songs in 37 films, including 31 songs in five Urdu films and 178 songs in 31 Punjabi films. Some of his films could not be released. His first film as an independent music composer was Chacha Khamkhwa in 1963, produced by Aslam Irani. For this film, he composed three songs. When actor Allauddin started making films, he hired Wazir as a composer, which cemented his place in the film industry.
Wazir had many immortal songs to his credit. Some of his memorable compositions include 'Shikwa Nah Ker Gila Nah Kar', 'Sayo Ni Meray Dil Da Jani', 'Ja Ajj Tu Mein Teri Tu Mera', 'Kehnday Nay Naina' and 'Neendraan Nahi Aandian', 'Chhap Tilak Sub Chheen' and 'Yeh Rangeeni-i-Naubahar, Allah Allah'. Most of his songs were sung by Noor Jehan who sang 104 of his compositions. He kept composing music for films until 1987. He later worked at Radio Pakistan and PTV also.
The music circles and singers have expressed deep sorrow on the demise of Wazir Afzal. Singer Anwar Rafi said Wazir was an institution within himself and the void left by his death could not be filled.
Instrumentalist Sajjad Tafu termed Wazir a great mentor to many musicians, including himself. The Lahore Arts Council, Punjab Council of Arts and Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture have sent their condolences messages.
Originally published in Dawn, September 8th, 2021