Habib Wali Mohammad

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Habib Wali Mohammad
حبیب ولی محمد
Born16 January 1921
Rangoon, Burma
Died4 September 2014(2014-09-04) (aged 93)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation(s)Singer, businessman
Years active1934–2014

Habib Wali Mohammad (Urdu: حبِیب ولی محمد‎), (16 January 1921 – 3 September 2014) was a Pakistani ghazal and film playback singer.[1]

Early life[edit]

Habib Wali Mohammad was born on January 16, 1921 at Rangoon to a conservative Memon family, which later moved to Mumbai. His family, Tabani, an industrial house has large business holdings in Pakistan.

During his childhood, Habib Wali Mohammad often listened to Qawwali music. But due to economic and business reasons, he gave priority to academics.

He received his MBA from Syracuse University, New York in 1947, and then lived in Mumbai for about 10 years before moving to Pakistan. His brother Ashraf W. Tabani was the governor of the province of Sindh, Pakistan during 1988. He died on 3 September 2014 in Los Angeles, USA.[2] The Tabanis belong to the Gujarati-speaking Memon community.[3][4]


As a youth, Habib Wali received classical music lessons from Ustad Latafat Hussain, nephew of Ustad Fayyaz Khan. In college, he became active in the musical functions of Ismail Yusuf College, gaining the nickname 'Taan Sen'. He completed his bachelor's degree in Bombay.

In 1941, Habib Wali was awarded first prize in a Bombay music competition with 1200 contestants, including the singer Mukesh Chand Mathur. His winning performance was singing the ghazal of the last Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Lagta Nahin Hai Jee Mera Ujray Diyar Mein.

Encouraged by this honour, at a young age, he took more interest in ghazal singing. During his stay in America, he had been out of touch with music. Hence, he felt lonely and missed his earlier college functions in Bombay. In his own words, "He was not happy in ‘Ujray dayar mein’, the same ghazal which had won him an award of a lifetime. He put a lot of effort and came out with a gramophone record of ghazals in his voice. On one side of the record, he dubbed Bahadur Shah Zafar's ghazals and on the other side, Ghalib's ghazals.

Unfortunately, the Indian public was reluctant to buy them.

Listening to these ghazals, actress Meena Kumari became a fan of his, and since she was at the time affiliated with Radio Ceylon, she had his recordings broadcast often. This boosted Habib Wali's sales and caused him to become a celebrity.

After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, his family migrated to Pakistan and established an industrial group which includes the Shalimar Silk Mills. He gave most of his time to the family business, recording ghazals and geets for films in his spare time, however music was not pursued as a profession.

However he still sang ghazals for the music companies.(including a geet written by Parveen Shakir: ‘Gori karath singhar’). In the eighties, he recorded ghazals on audio cassettes which were composed by the renowned music director Nisar Bazmi and the Pakistan Television, Karachi Center's music director Niaz Ahmed. In addition, he received offers to become a film playback singer for the Pakistani film industry.

Habib Wali Mohammad was from an early group of singers ever to record the ghazals. But probably because of his background and as a member of a well-established family, Habib Wali had never pursued an aggressive and mainstream career as a singer, though he was still highly regarded.

His famous ghazals include Bahadur Shah Zafar's 'Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon' and Qamar Jalalvi's 'Kab mera nasheman ahelay chaman'. All of his performances of the ghazals of Bahadur Shah Zafar have been very popular.

His other well known ghazals, include Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo. He also sang the famous national song, "Roshan-o-Rakhshan, Nayyar-o-Tabaan, Pakistan rahay".

Personal life[edit]

Habib Wali Mohammad lived in Los Angeles California, United States with his wife, Rehana and his family, including his sons, Rizwan Wali Mohammad Tabani and Nadeem Wali Mohammad Tabani. Both are ghazal and geet performers in their own right. Anwar Wali Muhammad Tabani lives in New Jersey and the daughter Ruxana lives in Karachi, Pakistan.[5]


Some of the ghazals, recorded in the voice of Habib Wali Mohammad are listed here below:

‘Ye na thi hamari Qismath’: poet: Mirza Ghalib

‘Ja kahio unsay naseem-e-sahar’: poet: Bahadur Shah Zafar

‘Gajra bana kay lay Aa malaniya’: poet: Afshan Rana

Ghazals for films[edit]

  • ‘Aaj janay ki zid na karo’: poet: Fayyaz Hashmi, picturised on Nadeem, music of Sohail Rana for film Badal Aur Bijli (1973)[6]
  • ‘Aashiyan jal gaya' :poet: Raaz Illahabadi, music by Sohail Rana in film ‘Baazi (1970)’
  • 'Raatain theen chandni', film song lyrics by Waheed Qureshi, music of Sohail Rana in film ‘Baazi (1970)’
  • 'Marnen Ki Duawain Kyun Maango-Jeene Ki Tamana Kaun Kare', film song lyrics by Moin Ahsan Jazbi, music by Nashad in film 'Chand Sooraj (1970)'

National songs like: ‘Roshan-o- rakhshan, nayyar-o-taban’, Aye nigar re watan tu salamat rahay, Sohni dharti Allah rakhe, Lahoo jo sarhad pe beh chuka hay, La fata illah ali la saif-o – illah zulfakar.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Recent concerts[edit]

Habib Wali Mohammad had a ghazal concert on 27 February 2010 in Edison, New Jersey, and on 28 February 2010 in West Virginia, performing with his son Nadeem Wali Mohammad, and former singer Bela Modi.

Habib Wali Mohammad recently performed in April 2012 in San Jose California for the Human Development Foundation, a fund raising event.


  1. ^ "Habib Wali Mohammad passes away at 93". The Express Tribune newspaper. 27 June 2016.
  2. ^ http://www.dawn.com/news/1129834, 'Habib Wali Mohammad passes away' on Dawn newspaper, Published 5 September 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  3. ^ Pakistan ’s Memon Benefactors
  4. ^ Pakistan and Gulf Economist, Volume 6, Issues 1–26. Economist Publications. 1986. p. 145. Mr. Tabani belongs to the Gujrati speaking community which has a strong hold on the commercial sector of the country.
  5. ^ http://www.dawn.com/news/1129992, Profile of Habib Wali Mohammad on Dawn newspaper, Published 5 September 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2016
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73L74L1lnXI, Habib Wali Mohammad film song on YouTube. Retrieved 27 June 2016