KARACHI: After nearly seven decades, the government released a re-recorded version of Pakistan’s national anthem on Sunday, sung by 125 singers from various parts of the country.
Composed by musician Ahmad G. Chaggla in 1949 and penned by legendary poet Hafiz Jalandhri in 1952, Pakistan’s original national anthem was first released on August 13, 1954.
The anthem speaks of submission to the Almighty and features prayers for Pakistan’s continued prosperity and encourages brotherhood among its citizens. Since 1954, the official national anthem had not been re-recorded, until now.
“This never happened before in 68 years,” Senator Javed Jabbar, chairman of the Steering Committee for the Re-Recording of the National Anthem, told Arab News. “It was the first time that an initiative was taken to invite participation on an equitable level across all provinces, regions, religions and genders,” he added.
With major developments in music technology and the emergence of new singing talents across the country, Jabbar said it was only right to represent the entire population and not only 11 voices for a re-recorded national anthem.
Jabbar said the steering committee went all out to ensure the anthem was an inclusive one.
“To make the re-recorded anthem inclusive, all aspects such as regional, linguistic, cultural, and gender diversity were taken into account,” he said. “The anthem features both full-time professional singers as well as people who are gifted vocalists but not necessarily well known.”
To re-record the national anthem, Jabbar said he enlisted the services of some big names in Pakistan’s music industry, such as Arshad Mahmud, Rohail Hyatt and Ustad Nafees Ahmed.
This isn’t the first attempt to re-record the national anthem, though. The initiative was first taken in 2017 before the Pakistani military proposed to the information ministry to undertake the project in January last year.
The ministry issued a letter to release advertisements in both English and Urdu newspapers on August 19, 2017, when the idea was initially discussed.
“Musicians and filmmakers are invited to send their technical and financial proposals for redoing the National Anthem’s Audio and Video Recording in the highest possible production standards,” read the official advertisement.
“The Qaumi Tarana (national anthem) which was recorded with a symphonic orchestra of 32 hands is to be recorded in orchestral as well as vocal/choir versions using the latest electronic instruments,” it read.
Jabbar said a fair representation of various communities in Pakistan was ensured while constituting the committee, which also included non-Muslim members. “Finally, in June 2021, the cabinet formally decided, for the first time, to set up a steering committee,” Jabbar said.
A total of 155 vocalists were selected to re-record the national anthem. Some of these singers rehearsed at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi for weeks, but ultimately 125 singers, representing all provinces and regions in Pakistan, were gathered in Islamabad to re-record the national anthem.
“This was something greater and bigger in the sense that everybody I met over there did not feel like leaving the auditorium we were recording [the anthem] in,” Haroon Shahid, Pakistani singer and actor, told Arab News. Haroon is from Lahore and is one of the singers who lent their voices to the national anthem.
For Bilal Ali, a musician from Kashmir who performs with his own band, the experience was “surreal and therapeutic.”
Natasha Humera Ejaz, from Islamabad, narrated her experience of rehearsing the national anthem with a group of singers for two days.
“We all were at the Pak-China Friendship Center and it was a wonderful spirit, lovely energy,” she said.
Forty-eight musicians from Pakistan’s armed forces played musical instruments for the re-recorded version of the anthem while the entire process to release the track took 13 months.
“When Baloch [people], Sindhis and Pathans come together, it’s sheer happiness,” Abid Brohi, a Baloch rapper, said. “We usually don’t get this exposure, so being a Baloch I am fortunate and proud to be a part of [the initiative].”