Najm Hosain Syed, Lahore 1999
Poet, Playwright, Linguist and Literary Critic Najm Hosain Syed is unique for having created the greatest positive impact on Punjabi literature, language, and the movement for the integrity of Punjabi in West Punjab.
The author of over 22 literary titles, Najm Hosain Syed runs weekly ‘Sangat Shah Husain’ since the Seventies, a literary gathering that is may be the highest school of learning that Pakistan can offer. Classic Punjabi poets such as Shah Madhulal Husain, Bulleh Shah, Gurunanak, Waris Shah and Damoodar are read, interpreted and discussed line by line over months and years.
Such schooling has produced most of what we now have in Punjabi writing and publishing in the West. Suchet Kitab Ghar and Monthly Pancham published by Editor Maqsood Saqib and Faiza, Kitab Trinjan operated by Author Zubair Ahmad, and Rut Leekha are the kind of fine organizations that are supported by Najm Syed. Earlier, he had encouraged the establishment of the first educational institution in Lahore to teach Punjabi at a graduate and post-graduate level, the Shah Husain College.
Below are links to the renderings of some of Najm Syed’s poetry and plays, and to more information about him.
Photo by Amarjit Chandan.
What we have above is just the tip of the iceberg that does however satisfy Uddari Writers Page but there is a lot more that I like to share with you here.
Though we have seen ‘poet, playwright, linguist and literary critic’ with Najm’s name supported by about 20 titles containing poetry, stage plays, language development projects and literary criticism yet there is sufficient reason to add ‘Musician and Composer’ to it. In the past three decades, Najm has composed and recorded over 300 cassette-length UNPUBLISHED works of semi-classical and folk music. The best part is that most use classical Punjabi poetry. In this venture, he has had a solid partnership with his wife Samina Syed who is an ‘Ustad’ of her discipline of singing, and has a deep voice that has been honed by years of ‘riaz’ practice. Another person who has been singing on Najm Syed’s tunes with Samina Syed from the Seventies, is Yasoob Tahir, and in more recent years, Ayesha Ali. On the technical side, Abbas Sidiqui has been working to organize the music library; in addition, there are many musicians who have practiced and performed with Samina Syed in the past years. We can now hear Ayesha Ali at Lahore Chitrkar but the singing voices of Samina Syed, Yasoob Tahir and Najm Hosain Syed are still unavailable.
A dedicated group of visual artists headed by Producer/Director Huma Safdar has staged some of Najm Syed’s plays in Lahore and Punjab, and have drawn admiration from critics and audiences. Most of Syed’s plays deal with themes of equality and re-interpretation of history in the context of the Punjab, and so are challenging to produce. Also, the plays are produced on volunteer basis. Ghazala Khan, Samiya Mumtaz, Farjad Nabi, Dr. Nusrat and many others have contributed their time, skills and talents to the development of Punjabi theater in Lahore.
Najm Hosain Syed takes a clear and strong stand against the growing societal trends of ‘commercialization’ by refusing to make profit from his work whether in the form of publications or plays. All his books are sold on the cost price, and the cultural organizations he supports are non-profit who do not seek funding from the government or other aid agencies. He abhors the growing influence enjoyed by the media, and stays away from media hypes about himself and his work.
Using a more intellectualized and structured version of Punjabi, Najm Syed’s poetic voice is aware and contained in its passions; and, his dramatic themes reach epic proportions as our past is brought to our present, and from their to a hope of a more enlightened future.