Wazir Afzal, a veteran of Pakistani cinema music’s golden age, died on Tuesday in Lahore after a long illness. He was 87 years old.
According to Afzal’s close friends, he had various medical issues and had been hospitalized at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital just a week earlier.
The deceased’s funeral prayers were conducted in Masjid Khurasan in Iqbal Town, and he was put to rest in an Allama Iqbal Town tomb. Artists Akbar Abbas, Qadir Shaggan, Khawar Abbas, Moin Butt, Baila Nasir, and others attended the burial.
Wazir Afzal was born in 1934 in Patiala. His family was initially from Amritsar, but they had relocated to Patiala. His brother had a sports store that also offered musical equipment. The young Wazir began playing the Sarod, which was purchasable in the shop. Wazir Afzal moved to Lahore after India’s division and subsequently to Karachi to work as an instrumentalist for Radio Pakistan. He quit the job after a year and returned to Lahore, where he began playing Sarod at the Standard Hotel on The Mall, which is owned by Khawaja Khurshid Anwar’s father. Master Ghulam Haider, a music composer, noticed him playing Sarod one day and advised him to try playing mandolin stead. Wazir began playing the mandolin. This evolved to his career in cinema music, where he began by providing a soundtrack, primarily at Pancholi Studio in Muslim Town. He served as a junior to Khawaja Khurshid Anwar, who taught him how to write cinema music.
Wazir and Afzal were pals who used to make music collaboratively. They were Wazir Ali and Muhammad Afzal, who became known as Wazir Afzal. Afzal used to play the violin and Wazir used to play the mandolin before they began their music careers. They continued to collaborate until 1968. Despite their divorce, Wazir continued to compose music as Wazir Afzal and rose to popularity. He continued to use the moniker and was known as Wazir Afzal for decades.
Wazir Afzal wrote 209 songs for 37 films, including 31 in five Urdu films and 178 in 31 Punjabi films. Some of his films were unable to be released. Chacha Khamkhwa, produced by Aslam Irani, was his debut film as an independent music composer. He wrote three songs for the film. When actor Allauddin began making films, he recruited Wazir as a composer, solidifying his place in the business.
Wazir had a plethora of timeless tunes to his name. Among his notable works are ‘Shikwa Nah Ker Gila Nah Kar,’ ‘Sayo Ni Meray Dil Da Jani,’ ‘Ja Ajj Tu Mein Teri Tu Mera,’ ‘Kehnday Nay Naina,’ ‘Chhap Tilak Sub Chheen,’ and ‘Yeh Rangeeni-i-Naubahar, Allah Allah.’ Noor Jehan, who performed 104 of his compositions, sang the majority of them. He continued to compose music for films until 1987. He later worked for Radio Pakistan as well as PTV.
Musicians and singers have expressed their grief at Wazir Afzal’s death. Anwar Rafi, a singer, said Wazir was an entity in and of himself, and the gap created by his passing could not be replaced.
Sajjad Tafu, an instrumentalist, described Wazir as a tremendous mentor to many artists, notably himself. Condolence messages have been sent by the Lahore Arts Council, the Punjab Council of Arts, and the Punjab Institute of Language, Art, and Culture.