Love Letters To Icons: Nayyara Noor

There are countless female icons that have coloured our history and left a lasting impression on us with their talent, charisma and presence. Every week, Ammaar – known on Instagram as ammaavocado – will be sharing his letter of love and admiration to some of these inspiring women. This week it’s to Nayyara Noor – the woman with a melodious voice. 

Pyaari Nayyara,

I am in a part of time where the summer has begun the last of its final unbearable yawns before it falls asleep into the cold and unfaithful arms of winter.

I am listening to your songs, and I am imagining everyone I lost and everyone I can lose as the winter approaches with its hungry and merciless jaws once more. Nayyara, you were one of the many jewels from NCA (National College of Arts) that were not appreciated while you were there. You were initially not appreciated, your style of singing was considered mundane. Most people critiqued your voice by comparing it to Iqbal Bano, and of course, for you that was a compliment but what that also meant was that your voice was not needed because there was a better still living.

Criticism for artists is very integral, Nayyara. But it is very hard to consume, and can play a toll on people who wear modesty over their skin — it makes it impossible to take compliments and even harder to believe that you can become anything beyond good.

You did not just wear modesty over your skin, your skin became modesty. Modesty became part of your identity. And perhaps that was the day you became a legend. And not when Professor Yasir saw the glow in you at Islamia College, when you oceaned a ghazal into an auditorium of young and restless lovers who would (back then) hide behind trees and only keep their love alive through glimpses of their lovers and sheer imagination.

Nayyara, there are very few people whose grace I wish to witness. And you are one of them. I wish I could’ve been to one of your Mehfils with someone I love and slowly fall in love with her again. I wish in that moment you were singing ‘Tum Mere Pass Raho” my favourite ghazal. 

I find myself falling into the endless forest of reaching limbs of lovers and the pulling back of those they loved more often these days while listening to your songs. I fall into familiar chaos, instead of walking into new ones. In my city, people are chanting for public hangings and women are shivering in their beds. And I watch the news and feel both anger and fright but then sink into another song of yours. And perhaps none of this helps me much in the large scheme of what is happening around me, around many of us. It feels especially foolish to look toward music as a source of healing in this moment, when so much actual, physical healing is needed. And so it has been useful for me to separate healing from comfort, even if the comforts are brief, or simply a needed noise to propel me from one fear to the next.

So I am healing, slowly. I am confronting my trauma. I am pulling the skeletons out of my closet only to sit them down and play your song to remind myself that there was once a tremendous blue sky even if it is no longer.



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