Habib Painter( 1915-1987 ) was a painter , poet and a well known Qawaali singer of India . Widely loved and admired for his style, he could sing Qawaali and Sri Krishna Leela with equal perfection.

He became a favourite of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and Bakshi Ghulam Mohd . Admired By Doyens of Indian cinema like Dilip Kumar ,Manoj Kumar , Raj Kapoor, late Nargis Dutt and actress Mumtaz , he was equally loved by writers and Artists that included Khushwant Singh and M.F.Hussain.

Habib Painter’s compositions presented a flavor of Humanism and integration.If he did not sing kabir vaani directly ,he would intersperse his compositions with dohaas of Kabir.

He was a widely traveled man and a frequent visitor to Kashmir. And just before his death , Actress Mumtaz  Sponsored his troupe’s tour to East Africa where his style and genre received rave reviews in Newspapers.

Credit goes to late Rais Mirza and his wife Taramani ( Head of Khadi Gram Udhoyg Bhawan ) for bringing a poor Billboard painter cum nondescript singer from Aligarh to elite cultural circle of the country and introducing him as a Qawaal .

Habib Painter had an attractive Nasal Tinge in his voice.He could also play many instruments notably Harmonium.

Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad remained an ardent admirer of Habib Painter till his last day . I quote some Qawaalis sung by Habib Painter that remained favourite of Bakshi Gh ulam Mohammad …..

(1) Karray Koyee Bharray Koyee

(2) Bahut Kathin hai Dagar Panghat ki

(3) Yahaan se chala Gayaa Kotwal

(4) Bhagwaan Issi Mein Miltein hain

(5) Nas Nas Bolay Nabi Nabi

(6) Hum Kaise Guzaara Kartein hain

(7) Baap Ki Naseehat Beti ko

(8) Bhalaa kis ko Maanoon Buraa Kis ko Maanoon

(9)  Nahin Maaloom

(10) Magar Mein keh Nahin kehtaa

(11) Dekh Tamaasha Lakarri ka

(12) Kaahe ko byaahi Bides

( 13) Qadam Lagzeeda Lagzeeda

In 1962, Habib Painter visited Border areas and sang to cheer up Indian Army during Chinese Invasion. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru Ji would always call him Bul Bul-e-Hind . He would be occasionally invited to Teen Murti House to sing for select Guests with Pandit Ji staying till the last song / Qawaali .

His style and Compositions became popular in the entire subcontinent during his life time. He sang for about 50 years, and his accompanists remained loyal to him. None moved away from him though most of them received invitation from Cinema world. His longtime trusted companion and co singer Rafiq Ali was also a great singer and musician .

Whenever he was in Delhi ,He would invariably visit Dargah of Hazrat Nizam Ud Din Aulia .He called himself to be a disciple of Hazrat Nizam Ud Din and Amir Khusro.

Habib Painter was  very fond of his Banarasi Paans . In Kashmir, many elders have fond memories of the person and his Qawaali Mehfils .He was a star attraction during Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad ‘s  Jashn e Kashmir Celebrations.

Prof.Jaya Parimu from srinagar  informs  me ,

“ Habib Painter will be a page on history of Qawaali genre of music. He was gifted with a voice having perfect tonal quality which matched with the Qawwali style of singing.His modulated lilt with a clear vocal quality would enchant the audience of Qawaali listeners. Peace to these legendary musicians who soulfully entertained listeners for decades. “

Sh.Anwar Aftab Bakshi from Srinagar informs

“ The beauty of Habib Sahib was that he would attend a lot of competitions of Qawaalis , which was the norm of that era. He was one of the fastest verbal composer for replying his opponent while singing a Qawaali during a competition. He used to be my father Late Bakshi Abdul Majid Sahib’s (Peace be upon him) favourite too. As a child I remember playing with his harmonium and then he would carry me in his lap around the area where his programme would be. I would wonder why his mouth would always be red, till I later on realized he was very fond of betel or Paan .”

Prof Nighat Hafiz adds ,

“Habib Painter had a unique style… Sharp sweet voice that could easily pierce a heart to make its way… I liked him for his clarity of word and expression… His words were never difficult to grasp or understand.”

Habib Painter  breathed his last on Feb 22, 1987 , and lies buried at His birth place Aligarh.

I end this mini post with a Dohaa of kabir ….

Kabiraa Jantra na baajiye Toot gaye sab Taar

Jantra Bichaara Kyaa karay Chalaa Bajaavan Haar

 ( O kabbir ! should the stings be cut,

How can this instrument resonate with music ?

What music can the poor instrument play ,

should the player move away from it ?)

Autar Mota is a Blogger  , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.