Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Karachi-based guest artist Samya Arif, celebrates Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano, famous for singing ghazal and nazm, forms of lyrical Urdu poetry. Born on this day in 1938 in Delhi, British India, Bano studied with Ustad Chand Khan, a master of classical Indian vocals, and began singing on All India Radio as a teenager. Bano is also often notably remembered for her defiant performance of protest poetry by the exiled Nobel-nominee Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
In 1952, she moved to Pakistan and married a man who vowed to support her musical career, allowing her great freedom for a female artist at the time. She sang on Radio Pakistan, provided vocals as a playback singer for popular movies, and attracted large crowds to her live concerts.
Bano sang in both Urdu and Farsi, earning admirers in Iran and Afghanistan, as well as India and Pakistan. A regular performer at the Jashn-e-Kabul cultural festival in Kabul, her powerful vocals once inspired King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan to give her a golden vase. In 1974, the Pakistani government honored Bano with the Presidential Award for Pride of Performance.
In 1977, President Zia ul-Haq seized power and imposed martial law, strictly censored the press, and suspended political parties in Pakistan. The following year, Bano’s favorite poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, wrote a poem critical of the authoritarian ruler which Bano boldly sang before a crowd of 50,000 at a Lahore stadium in 1985. While doing so, she was wearing a black sari—a traditional women’s garment prohibited by the government. Though she was officially banned from singing live or on TV, Bano attracted a cult following, and her message and voice are still heard to this day as a symbol for revolution.
Guest Artist Q&A with Samya Arif
Today’s Doodle was created by Karachi-based guest artist Samya Arif.
Below, he shares his thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: While I was aware of Iqbal Bano before, I had not really gotten a chance to explore much of her music or her life, so this project turned out to be a great opportunity to learn more about her. I ended up falling in love with her voice and the beautiful poems and ghazals she has sung by some of the greatest poets from the subcontinent.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I was really excited to be approached by Google to work on the Iqbal Bano Doodle since I've been following Google Doodles for a while and really love some of the artwork that have come out over the years. As a feminist artist who focuses on women's issues and empowerment, I was also curious to know more about Iqbal Bano and her journey as a highly acclaimed and celebrated ghazal icon of the subcontinent.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: It was important for me to show Iqbal Bano in all her beautiful singing glory, she used to have these graceful hand movements while singing, that's something I tried to capture in my Doodle. I also wanted to show her in a Sari, which is a traditional garment worn by women from the subcontinent. Iqbal wore a Sari in defiance and as a form of protest when she sang the revolutionary poem 'Hum Dekhenge' by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, during a concert in Lahore, in 1985. Both the Sari and Faiz were banned at the time by the country's fascist, military dictator. Hence, I wanted her to have a strong and bold expression while adorned by flowers in her hair and hands that she always seemed to wear at her concerts.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I hope my Doodle evokes curiosity amongst the younger generations of Pakistanis to explore Iqbal Bano's music and take inspiration from her life. She is a great icon to us Pakistani women, especially for following her passion with determination and grace throughout her career.
Early concepts of the Doodle